Twin brothers Jack Kerwin and Dylan Kerwin are regulars at Gramercy Ale House. But Monday marked the first time bar seating was allowed after over a year.
"It feels so good. I spent so much time here," said Jack Kerwin. "To not have it for a year is tough, but to be back is joyous."
The return of bar seating comes the same day Governor Andrew Cuomo announced restaurants, bars, and other businesses can reopen at full capacity on May 19.
Manager Stephen Shea said it feels great to take steps forward after a challenging year.
"My friends came in and cheered because they can sit at the bar," he said. "That's what we are. We serve food, and people love what we do, but being comfortable at the bar is being at the bar."
"That's what's nice about a bar," said Dylan Kerwin. "You get to sit at a bar, talk to the bartender, get to know him, talk about your problems, talk about your successes. over a beer or whisky. So it's good."
Over at Fitzgerald's Pub, owner Denis Fitzgerald also just reopened bar seating. He is looking forward to the curfew being lifted. It's expected to end for outdoor service on May 17 and indoor service May 31.
"You know, it's a bar in Manhattan. People finish work at midnight, people finish work at 2, and just getting back to New York City we knew and loved," Fitzgerald said.
While things are looking up, there are still challenges. Shea said it's been tough to get people back to work.
"That's our biggest impediment, that people are making money sitting at home, and they might not make as much working a shift or two a week," he said.
It's also unclear how social distancing will apply to the May 19 reopening. The governor said the state is keeping the six-feet rule for now, but also said events restricted to only vaccinated people will have a different set of rules.
Bar owners we talked to weren’t sure what this will eventually mean for them.