Winter Storm Jonas caused what many West Village residents can normally only dream about — a Saturday night with no bridge-and-tunnel crowd.
At 2:30 p.m. on January 23, Mayor Bill de Blasio ordered cars off the city streets, and Governor Andrew Cuomo also announced a travel ban, shutting down all bridges and tunnels. It was as if the gates to Manhattan were slammed shut, repelling an invading mass of revelers from the outer boroughs who keep locals from visiting the neighborhood’s bars.
At 10 o’clock, Village resident Mike Miller, 39, was at the WXOU Radio Bar on Hudson Street. It was standing-room only, packed with locals. On a normal Saturday, there’s no way he’d be anywhere near the tavern this early in the evening.
“Typically I don’t leave my house ‘til 11:30,” Miller said. “The bridge-and-tunnel people leave at 1:30 for some reason. Maybe it’s the last PATH train, I don’t know. But it’s like a flock of birds. They just take off at 1:30.”
Across the street at the White Horse Tavern, Peter Mooney was happy. “Tonight’s been a good vibe,” said Mooney, who lives in the neighborhood. “It feels like a Wednesday night crowd. Saturdays are not New York – it’s mostly Jersey, or Long Island. But the atmosphere tonight is drunk people from around the area.”
Seated nearby were Ryan Sweeney, 30, and Morgane Moulherat, 27. “We’ve never come here on a Saturday night,” said Sweeney. Moulherat added, “But tonight, it’s cozy.” Moulherat, whose band the Parlour Tricks was named “Best Pop Band” in New York City by the Voice two years ago, noted that on a typical Saturday the bar would be elbow-to-elbow with a crowd. “You wouldn’t be able to move in here because it’d be so packed.”
But at least one couple did drive in from New Jersey. Tribeca resident Brendan McLean, 34, had gone to Morristown, N.J., to visit his longtime girlfriend Alexis Evolga, who recently moved from Florida. She’d complained that she was always coming to the city to spend weekends with McLean and had finally convinced him to venture across the river. But when McLean woke up early Saturday and looked out the window, he implored that they drive into Manhattan.
“I didn’t want to be stranded in New Jersey!” McLean said. “I want to be in New York for the storm.”
They used Evolga’s four-wheel-drive and came through the Holland Tunnel long before the road closures. “We didn’t see any people on the road,” McLean said. Blizzard schmizzard—at one point, McLean warmed up enough to wander outside the bar in just a t-shirt and scarf standing beneath the White Horse’s iconic neon sign. The storm was finally lessening. and the full moon shined through the thinning clouds.
Back inside, despite all the talk of relief from the bridge-and-tunnel Jersey crowd, patrons began singing in unison when Bruce Springsteen’s “Born to Run” and Billy Joel’s “Piano Man” came on the sound system.
And bartender Doc Dougherty wasn’t dissing the B&T crowd.
“It’s problematic because it’s too slow now, especially for a Saturday,” said Dougherty. The bar had been packed earlier, mostly with “finance guys,” he scoffed. “I’ll take the bridge-and-tunnel crowd over them any day of the week!”
Over at Johnny’s Bar on Greenwich Street, New York City native Tina Lopez, 36, sipped a vodka and soda. Lopez, a hairdresser, is a regular at Johnny’s. “This place is a hidden gem,” she told the Voice.
Bartender Mark Lang said, “There are mostly locals here tonight. The blizzard actually brought in more of the people from the neighborhood who might not come out Saturdays.”
By Sunday morning at 7 a.m., the travel ban was lifted. Later that afternoon, people were back on the roads — even the bridge-and-tunnelers.