After Sandy: Chelsea Bar Left in Darkness Returns to Light



Flannery’s Bar sits powerless in Chelsea. Photo: N.G. Onuoha

Flannery’s Bar, located on West 14 Street and Seventh Avenue, is no stranger to Chelsea night life. The Irish bar is a neighborhood favorite, and when Hurricane Sandy left the entire area in four days of darkness, patrons flocked to Flannery’s for candle light and familiar company.

“They let us gather,” said Mitch Klein, a regular customer who spent his Friday night in the bar. “It’s nice to have a neighborhood place where you can just light candle light and kill time. It’s a New York moment.”

For four days, Klein lived in the darkness of Chelsea. Like most of the residents living below West 34 Street, the 38-year-old massage therapist had no light, heat or running water. “I haven’t showered in four days,” said Klein with a laugh. “I’ve got a little eau de Mitch going on…a little musk.”

Eating a burger next to a small wax candle and a bottle of Jameson beer, he chatted with the bartender, John, who welcomed regular customers tired of sitting in the dark with an occasional flicker of siren lights. “It’s kind of romantic,” said Klein.

Mitch Klein sits by bar at Flannery’s. Photo: N.G. Onuoha.

“But I feel bad,” he added. “There are people dying, and I’m trying to kill time and whet my palate with Jameson.”

Flannery’s continued to serve regular customers though the staff was unsure of when the light would return, but on Saturday at 4 p.m., power was restored to the bar and businesses along Seventh Avenue in Chelsea. With screens lit and music playing from all speakers, bartender Dickie Donnelly welcomed bar-goers returning to Flannery’s for  Sunday night football, drinks and darts.

“We reopened properly [Saturday],” said the bartender and part-time Frank Sinatra impersonator . “A lot of our customers are blue collar workers: MTA employees, superintendents or they’re in the bar and restaurant industry like ourselves. This was kind of a meeting place for everybody. To have the power back is great.”

Flannery’s bar with power and open to all customers. Photo: N.G. Onuoha.

Customers watch televisions along the bar area in Flannery’s. Photo: N.G. Onuoha.

Michael Murray, a regular customer as well as an occasional bouncer, bartender and bus boy at Flannery’s, was relieved the bar was officially open and back in business. “I missed this place,” said Murray, 36, who lives in Harlem. “I hadn’t been here since last Sunday. I was concerned because people here didn’t have power, but I was more concerned about the people in Staten Island and Long Island.” Murray had specifically been thinking about his father, who remained in Babylon, Long Island during the storm. He has not heard from his father since Hurricane Sandy hit New York City on Monday.

“I’ve left messages,” said Murray, gripping a dart in hand. “But I haven’t heard back. I’m confident he’s okay though.”

While Flannery’s has turned on its lights, Donnelly insisted the bar is not back to business as usual. “It’s been a lot quieter,” he said. “There’s still a lot of people without power. There are some customers in Brooklyn who can’t get here because their train is not running. A lot of our customers come from New Jersey because the PATH train is right on the corner but they can’t come. So we’re not as busy as we should be.”

“I was in Iraq for two and a half years as a contractor with the U.S. military before coming here,” said the 35-year-old. “I underwent pretty harsh conditions at times so I was already tuned in for that sort of thing.” Yet, Donnelly said the experience has allowed him to interact with customers in a new way.

Dickie Donnelly behind bar counter at Flannery’s. Photo: N.G. Onuoha.

“I’ve seen a massive camaraderie,” he said. “You know what they say about New York…It’s not as easy to be friendly with somebody because it’s a faster city, but I’ve had more people come up to the bar, who hardly know me, and ask do I need to stay in their house. I’ve had a person who brought me food because they know I lost power…It’s nice to see.”