By Patrick Markey
Last Tuesday, barkeeps behind the blue and white facade of Tommy Makem’s Irish Pavilion in Midtown Manhattan shouted out the last orders for the final time, as the popular 57th Street pub closed its doors.
The last night was by all accounts a quieter evening than the night before, when the beers flowed free and patrons were up on the tables. Tuesday’s crowd appeared a little more apprehensive trying to answer questions born of the impending closure – Where to next? What replaces Tommy’s? And, of course, could anywhere replace Tommy’s?
Inside sitting at the bar far from a sign that read, “Thanks and good-bye to each and every one of you,” Rosemary Flannagan reflected on the 20 years she’d put into the bar that was called only the Irish Pavilion when she first stepped through its doors.
“It’s very hard to find an Irish bar in this neighborhood, that’s why it’s so wonderful,” she said not a little glumly.
“And it had a great camaraderie,” she said.
Follow us on social media
Keep up to date with the latest news with The Irish Echo
Standing nearby, Randy Campbell, a St. Louis native who had only been frequenting Makem’s for a “couple of years,” agreed: “It’s the only neighborhood bar in this neighborhood,” he said.
Weaving among the cotton suits, white shirts and loosened ties of the bar’s steady after-work crowd, that seemed to be the general consensus. Makem’s brought a little neighborhood flavor to a pricy street, in a costly Manhattan office area. Like many other watering holes in Manhattan, Makem’s also had it’s share of fable – Bob Dylan had popped in for a tipple there along with George Harrison, Eric Clapton and others, say barstaff in the know. And what about the time U2 did a promotion there?
Sitting in the back room, one of the bar’s partners, Henry Counihan, explained that the closure: the new landlord’s plans did not include room for the bar. The space would perhaps be turned into a large Armani store, he said.
“In fairness, we never sold any Armani suits, although we had plenty in here,” he said.
In its time, he said, the bar had something that kept people coming back, although that quality was difficult to define. There was certainly a great staff, he said.
For some, like Jim Devine, it was the bar’s locale and its music that made it irreplaceable. For others, Chris Pittinger included, the bar holds fond memories of many nights passed in good company.
“I’ve been here most nights for 13 years; every girlfriend I’ve had has been in here; my parents have been here,” said Pittinger, who discovered the bar while searching for a quick drink on his way to a stiff-collared dinner party.
County Down barkeep Declan McErlean, who has pulled pints at Makem’s for 16 years, was still waiting for the closure to sink in.
“There’s been a lot of good times. It hasn’t hit me yet,” said McErlean, who plans to take about two weeks off and then plan his next move.
But for all the smooched farewells and lingering handshakes, New York may not have seen the last of the Pavilion crowd.
“We went out with a bang, and we want to come back into New York,” said partner Counihan.