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Older Ladies and Bootleg DVDs at Finnegan's Wake

There are more than 6,000 bars in New York City. About 200 of them get regular press. This column is about the other ones. Robert Simonson, a journalist and blogger of the drinking life, and the originator of the "A Beer At..." column, takes a peek inside Gotham’s more anonymous watering holes, one by one.

[Adam Lerner]

I thought it must be Ladies' Night at Finnegan's Wake. And I do mean ladies, because every woman at the bar was of a certain age or older. They came in in twos and threes, unencumbered by men, and wrapped up in floral prints. They drank beer and sipped glasses of white wine that the bartender filled to the brim. One poured melting ice from a bar glass to cool down her Martini. None of them were unfamiliar with the place, a pub as Irish as they were. A tiny, middle-aged Asian woman came in with a clutch of bootleg DVDs. I've seen these sort of hucksters in bars all my life. Usually they're chased out by the owner. But at Finnegan's Wake, the woman's reception was warm. The trio of ladies at the end of the bar looked through her stock. No sale. But the two film industry lushes nearby, who had been dropping names like James Gandolfini all night, were willing customers. "Hangover Part 2"? Yes. "The Dilemma"? Definitely. "The Adjustment Bureau"? OK. They bought about 12 movies. Then one went out for a smoke, jostling the lady with the ash-blonde bouffant hairdo next to him. He apologized by warmly shaking her hand and introducing himself. He was that kind of drunk, the sort that endeavors to remain civilized by constantly shaking hands with strangers. He did the same thing to the identical woman 20 minutes later. She asked for her check soon after.

Two-thirds of Finnegan's Wake is given over to dining. At 8 PM one recent weeknight, there wasn't a table to be had. The diners were obviously regulars, gray around the temples, thick around the waist. They sat in married couples of one or two. Occasionally a grown son or daughter was thrown in. And, as at the bar, plenty of ladies enjoying a drink and a talk and tossed green salad, or a dish of steamed vegetables that looked remarkably fresh. (Don't worry pubsters—you can get your bangers and mash and burger here, too.) The staff is constant. The owner, Anthony King, who opened the bar on the corner of First Avenue and 73rd Street in 1972, brags on his website that the kitchen workers have been with him a total of 130 years, and he has seen waitresses through college. He even praises his wonderful landlord. There's a first.
Robert Simonson
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