An Islander’s Manhattan-based bar to rise again after pandemic shutdown

For Mike Walsh, it felt like luck.

About six months after living with his fiancé Jessica, a new bar opened in Chelsea about a five-minute walk from their apartment.

This was not a new watering hole for Walsh, who grew up in Nassau County. It was a bar dedicated to his beloved hockey team, and a place he knew immediately that he was going to see the islanders again and again while making new, like-minded acquaintances. Walsh thought the Offside Tavern was going to be “my ‘Cheers’—the local bar where everyone I know.”

As an Islanders fan living in Manhattan, it wasn’t always easy to find somewhere to watch the games in a public setting. Even if a bar is willing to play a hockey game, the more popular ranger people will take precedence. The only two options were usually to stay home or miss the game altogether.

“Sometimes you go to a place and you have to get there an hour before the start because the TV will be taken over by New York City FC or something like that,” Walsh said, referring to the local major. League Soccer Team. “The TV will be claimed really early on for other sports. Unless you had a dead game night… and even in the best-case scenario, you weren’t going to get sound. ,

Walsh saw Offside Tavern grow from a space that attracted Islanders fans when it first opened in early 2017, overtaking nearly everyone in blue and orange. Weekend Road Games, in particular, attracted capacity crowds. It also attracted team personnel, including co-owner John Ledecky, whom Walsh says he interacted with for at least 20 minutes a night when the Islanders were being defeated. blue jacket, But then, of course, came the pandemic. The Offside Tavern eventually had to be closed. This hit Walsh harder than he expected and led to an awkward moment with Jessica.

“I’m not a big careerist, but I’ve definitely gotten a little bit better,” Walsh, 37, said. (She) was looking at me like I had three heads because a week ago due to COVID, our wedding got postponed and I didn’t shed a tear. She was like, ‘Are you kidding me?'”

The Offside Tavern on 14th Street between Sixth and Seventh Avenues made every effort to stay open through the pandemic. During the 2020 Bubble Playoffs, BAR had access to some outside street seating as the Islanders made their run to the league semi-finals before being knocked out by the eventual Stanley Cup champions. tampa bay lightning,

But just days into that playoff, owner Nick Costa knew it was likely to be his last. By his estimate, they went from about 250 patrons per day to perhaps 40 that summer. Financially, they were at the end of their rope, and the doors closed for good soon after the islanders were finished.

But Costa, 39, is back to work on the Lower East Side with partner Thomas Fischetti, planning to reopen the Offside Tavern and make it bigger and better than ever. Fischetti found a new location on Avenue A and Sixth Street, which he hopes will be ready in time for the Islanders’ season opening on October 13. The pair are doing all of the interior work themselves at the multi-room locale, which was most recently home to an uptown cocktail bar. There is much work to be done, including the crucial issue of getting their state government rubber stamps on their liquor licenses (this has already been approved by the community board).

With double square footage moving into a space, the new bar will have a more robust menu, thanks to previous tenants installing necessary and expensive equipment they otherwise couldn’t afford. In the last place, they were limited to items like chicken fingers and tater tots… er, “tater trotz.”

“People are very excited,” said Costa, who maintains a tiktok page With construction progress report. “I’ve kept the exact location a secret, but people have guessed from the videos I’ve posted of where we actually are, and they’re right.”

The new Offside Tavern will also be more versatile. It also includes an underground space that could potentially be made into its own speakeasy-type bar.

“The cool thing about this particular place is that it’s nice and divided,” Costa said. “We’re an Islanders bar, and then we’ll transition to something different for late nights. It will take some time to get used to it, but we’re trying to be as smart as possible with what we’re doing. Huh. “

Costa immigrated to the Islanders as a child. After living for two years in the small English town of Potter’s Bar, his family relocated to Westbury, Long Island. He remembers going to his first Islanders game at age 9, thanks to a friend at his birthday party at the Nassau Coliseum. He can even miss the opponent, the Mighty Duck Anaheim,

His fantasy grew even more when Islanders defenseman Brian Berrard would from time to time go out into his street to play ball hockey and give some pointers to him and his friends.

“That was it,” he said. “I was obsessed.”

After working in the bar and restaurant industry for a while, Costa decided to take the leap and open his own space. As an Islanders fan in Manhattan, he knew the frustrations of fans who wanted to go out and see their team, and thought the Offside Tavern would fill that void. This is similar to the thought process of another hockey bar in New York, canukWhich opened in late December last year and was packed with Canadians and hockey fans during the 2022 Stanley Cup playoffs (this author can confirm).

“I knew then that there was this hole in the Islanders community that they didn’t have a place to watch the game in town,” Costa said. “I knew that because I lived in the city and I wanted to watch the game.”

Earlier business was slow. The Islanders who were out of the playoffs that season didn’t help matters.

The key point for success came in the 2017–18 season, when Costa was featured in an MSG ad that ran during the Islanders’ games. It was the kind of free promotion most bar owners can only dream of.

“Holy crap, talk about exposure,” Costa said. “Then people knew us, and it was awesome. It was crazy. We probably 20 to 30 people went from wall to wall, couldn’t move.”

Islanders team personnel also took notice, and it wasn’t just Ledecky who found his way through their door. anders leeK’s wife held a meeting for wives and girlfriends one night while the islanders were on the road, and then appeared with her husband one night between games.

Costa was very disappointing to them when the lees were there, but the bartender cautiously made a quick FaceTime call so they could at least say hello to each other. On his way out, Lee left a bunch of cash with the bartender for the Islanders game that weekend.

“They told us to use it until the next game,” Costa recalled. “People would be like, ‘Give me a Bud Light and a shot of Jameson,’ and I was like, yeah, that’s on Anders Lee.”

Costa wasn’t nearly as excited when one of the organization’s senior vice presidents left his business card there. Immediately, he was concerned that the offside tavern signage—the old Islanders fisherman logo, would go with a bottle of Jameson in the fisherman’s hand instead of a hockey stick.

Instead, it invited him and the staff to join Ledecky in their suite for an Islanders home game. Regarding the logo, Costa was instructed to continue using it, but “just don’t sell it on consignment,” he said. “Complete. Deal.”

(UBS Arena / Dennis DaSilva)

It was this relationship that Costa developed with the team elders, which eventually led to the sparkling new UBS Arena naming one of the concourses after the offside tavern, which Costa lobbied on Twitter. They didn’t have much involvement in launching it other than providing a few cocktail recipes, but were honored nonetheless.

“Our vision for UBS Arena was to embrace the authenticity of Islanders fans,” Oak View Group Chairman and CEO Tim Lewick said in a statement provided by the team. “There was no better way to do this than to keep the legacy of Offside Tavern alive, which was a New York City home away from home for fans.”

Costa said: “It was an honor to have him named after us. If we never opened again and that was his last breath offside, it would have been fine.”

Instead, the bar is set to get a second life. And Walsh will be there, even if it’s on the other side of Manhattan. Perhaps he will even bring in Jessica, who is now his wife after the COVID-19-postponed marriage, which was eventually rescheduled.

“I’ll definitely be one of the guys in line, for sure,” he said.

(Photo courtesy of Nick Costa of Offside Tavern at the former location before closing in 2020)

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