In a phone interview, Gordon said he closed the pub on March 31. The historic watering hole transitioned to delivery and takeout for two weeks, but Gordon said he didn’t want to put guests and his staff at risk of contracting the virus.
“I feel like it’s best,” he said. “I can rebuild the business, but I can’t rebuild a lost life.
“I feel very disappointed that we can’t serve our guests,” Gordon added, “that we can’t continue operating the place that people love.”
Earlier this year, Gordon and property owners Ken and Henry Shi reached a handshake agreement for a five-year lease to avoid the bar’s closure. The deal was brokered by the Queens Chamber of Commerce, local elected officials and representatives from city agencies in a closed-door meeting.
Gordon said prior to the coronavirus outbreak, he and the building owners were getting ready for the official lease signing. But when the virus struck and social distancing orders were put in place, the Shi’s “put everything on hold.”
When April 1 came, Gordon said he got a text from the landlords asking for rent. The bar owner said the text did not even acknowledge the pandemic.
“No acknowledgement,” he said. “Just cold.”
Gordon, a New York City firefighter, said he’s still hoping to sign the lease despite everything going on. He said he will also try to negotiate a two-month rent abatement, given that the tavern has closed.
“We don’t have any revenue coming in now,” he added.
The bar owner said he’s in the process of applying for federal and local loans to keep the business afloat, but noted that the system is “inundated by requests.”
Despite no money coming in, Gordon said he will keep paying his staff during the temporary closure through a combination of GoFundMe donations, gift cards that customers purchased, loans and personally not taking a salary. The online fundraiser has already netted more than $5,000 in a week for his staff.
“I’m trying to fill that gap until something comes up,” he said.
Not wanting the food they already made to go to waste, the bar donated hot meals to local frontline workers. The pub advertised their donation through social media.
“People came and took advantage of it,” Gordon said. “After that, we also extended it to people who don’t have enough money for a meal right now.”
Gordon said he expects the bar to remain closed until the end of April, if not longer. He said he “firmly believes” that they will be in the same position 30 days from now.
“This is something I don’t know if we’ve totally wrapped our minds around,” he said. “It’s going to be with us for months.”
Even when the crisis abates, he expects a “slow build” back to normalcy. He predicted that customers will be afraid to go out, and that there won’t be a “rush out of homes.”
“People will be very hesitant,” he said. “You’re looking at early summer before things start to open back up again.”
In the meantime, Gordon will try to “turn lemons into lemonade.” He will do a whole restoration of the tavern’s interior and put in a new gas line. He will also make use of the city grant offered by the Department of Small Business Services (SBS).
Until the beloved bar’s doors open again, Gordon’s message to customers is to not allow the virus to divide them.
“Allow it to unite us,” he said. “This is the time to show our humanity.”
He said mental health is going to be a big problem, and advised everyone to be mindful that there could be other losses in addition to losing people due to the outbreak.
But he also believes the city will conquer the coronavirus.
“This will be the defining moment that will change how we treat each other,” Gordon said. “This can be something for us in the end.”