At the time of writing this at the end of August 2020, outside dining has been open for about two months. A lot of the initial confusion surrounding what is and isn’t allowed has been clarified. Restaurants have built their barriers to code, bars that previously only served beers and well drinks are now selling Cuomo sandwiches, and the days of lone take out drinks have past (Rest In Piece to my La Loteria $7 Happy Hour margarita addiction).
While we’re currently not gathering inside for shows on the top floor of Stonewall, or in the normally cramped Duplex watching our waiter perform on stage, all the local watering holes have now reopened for street seating. In the past couple months I’ve had a drink or two (or three) at each of these bars and observed the varying responses to the situation and heard varying accounts from those in the know about if it’s sustainable.
Here are my experiences at five of the most well known places.
What else would I start with on this list? The eponymous bar to Pride celebrations around the world, Stonewall has been a local staple for decades. In normal times it’s my favorite spot to catch a drag show on the top floor and sip a beer with a friend during the day.
When the guidance first came out, Stonewall had to go drinks setup like most of the other bars in the area. Patrons could line up an take a stroll across to the park. Today, they have a fun socially distant table setup split by red carpet ropes. About a month ago scaffolding was raised in front of the building which may be a positive or negative depending on the heat and possible rain. On the weekend, the stretch of Christopher Street that Stonewall is located on is actually shut down for walking, and the tables extend further out from the sidewalk.
Julius is the only place on this list that already had an extensive food menu and kitchen, so unlike the others they didn’t have to scramble to build a makeshift kitchen when Cuomo’s mandatory food with drinks order came out. Curiously enough Julius was also the last bar on this list to open for outdoor dining, and even then it’s been pretty sporadic.
I first saw Julius setting up their outdoors at the beginning of the month. They’ve had a GoFundMe setup for a couple of months and have almost reached their $100,000 goal, so I suspect they were able to take their time opening as rent has been covered. Their current setup only has about 6 tables which fits significantly fewer patrons than the inside.
The food is perhaps a step below even regular bar food. That said the prices can’t be beat – if you’re just looking for a beer and a basic $5 burger this is the place to be. The biggest downside is their location. Unlike the other entries on this list, Julius is set back from 7th Ave so you miss out on some people watching opportunities.
Monster had some sporadic hours for a while but seems to have settled into being open during the day and into the night. The new hours are posted on the door and can be seen in the picture to the right. Drinks are your typical bar fare and you’ll find the place pretty full during the evening. Of course, there’s no access to the piano or downstairs club area, but entertainment can still be found from the lively neighborhood characters who frequent the Christopher St. / 7th Avenue intersection and the park across the street.
They’ve put the largest investment into their outdoor space with a new deck area on the street and some great decorations. They’ve done a great job of putting up plastic social distancing screens that give patrons a sense of comfort despite it being a high traffic area. Food includes microwave empanadas and hot dogs from the Costco frozen section, according to our waiter – But you didn’t come here looking for brunch did you?
Prior to COVID, Duplex was the place to go to watch live show tunes sung by local talent, occasionally with you bartenders joining in themselves. Nowadays, they’ve set up a patio area on the wide sidewalk on 7th avenue for drinks and light fare. Duplex is also serving to go drinks a la Capri Sun bag (as long as you buy a $2 ketchup less hotdog!) – pictured here is a Peach, Tequila and Lime margarita style drink the I quite enjoyed.
Like all the places on this list, you’re not going to get a fancy cocktail here, but if you’re just looking for a beer and a vodka soda to sip while you chat with your friends this is an excellent stop to make. The tables are spaced far enough apart to be comfortable.
The major advantage of Duplex is the location if you’re a people watcher. It’s located directly on the corner of 7th and Christopher, so you get wide views of everything going on on the street. This also means that you’ll often have street performers coming in the evening to play their pieces and collect tips. Last time I was here, a brass band stayed and played show tunes for the crowd.
Normally a cramped and tiny bar, Pieces has expanded across the sidewalk to include not just their building but the building next door, allow for ample seating. Their setup has a nice design, though the social distancing between the tables could use a little work. They do not have any screens in place and at night when this place is full it can get pretty crowded. Being on the side street, it is a good spot to get away from the general crowds.