McGuinness’s taps into spirit of St. Paddy’s Day

Even a muggy St. Patrick’s day couldn’t keep Sunnyside regulars out of McGuinness’s Saloon.

Local bar-goers enjoy a pint

At the corner of Queens Boulevard and 45th place sits McGuiness’s – a tiny hole-in-the-wall Irish joint. The place was well decorated for the festivities. Green Christmas lights were strewn across the premises, corned beef was served at the typically drinks-only bar and bountiful irish accents drowned out the traditional music playing in the background. The men’s room is to the left of the bar, as a sign clearly denotes, “Men to the left ‘cos women are always RIGHT.”

When you walk into the bar, the first chair is typically occupied by Séan Gorham. For the 25 years McGuinness’s has been open, he has been sitting in that same seat.

When asked why this was his favorite bar Gorman simply said “because it was across the street” before giving his serious answer. It’s because Marie McGuinness makes everybody feel comfortable.

McGuinness immigrated to this country from Donegal in 1987 and moved out to Queens with her husband Brandon McGuinness in 1990. They had worked in the service and bar industry priorly and had always wanted to open a place of their own together. Brandon passed away in 1996, just under a year before the bar that is his namesake opened.

Marie McGuiness wearing green for St. Patrick’s Day

While that bar has its fair share of clientele from Ireland, Marie McGuiness described her customers as “the league of nations” and speculated that even though it was St Patricks Day, the bar had about 20 people from different countries in there.

“I want customers to feel that this is their home away from home – no matter what country in the world they’re from. We have the best bartenders in the world. I want every customer to feel welcomed. If I go into a bar, whether it’s in any country, I would want to feel as welcome as people would make feel here. I always say a woman should be able to walk into any bar alone, set up at the bar, and chat to the bartender about sports or whatever,” McGuinness said.

And the approach has worked.

During the Covid-19 pandemic, Marie struggled to keep the bar afloat. The restrictions placed financial stress on her business but as soon as the options for outdoor dining opened, her crew of regulars sat outside every weekend, even in the snow and crummy weather, in order to help support their favorite bar.

Joe Mennicucci has been regular with his with Kim Hirsch for as long as they can remember. He agrees with McGuiness about the bartenders being the best in the world. Before there were cell phones, he used to pay the bartender five to ten bucks every time the bartender would tell Mennicucci’s wife that every time she called that he wasn’t at the bar.

“It’s been open 25 years since February 13,” McGuinness said. “Hopefully, it will be open another 25 years, I’ll be walking around with my cane.”

Demand for changes on McGuinness following deadly accident

At 12:45 am on May 18, Matthew Jensen — a 58-year-old Greenpoint resident and beloved teacher at P.S. 110 — was struck and killed by a black Rolls Royce at the corner of McGuinness Boulevard and Bayard Street.
The driver sped off and Jensen, who was walking home from his own birthday celebration, was rushed to Woodhull Hospital, where he later died.
The P.S. 110 and Greenpoint communities mourned the loss of a friend, teacher, and neighbor, and now they are demanding action.
Last Thursday, they organized a vigil and rally at McGolrick Park. The event honored Jensen’s life and demanded that the city dedicate funding to redesign McGuinness Boulevard. The event was attended by multiple city officials, including Mayor Bill de Blasio.
“Everyone from PS 110, I’m so sorry that you’re gathered here in pain and mourning, Mathew Jensen wanted to help kids,” de Blasio said before a crowd of approximately 200, including many of Jensen’s former students. “He is gone because of a hit-and-run crash. He is gone because someone killed him and left the scene, and this is what happens too often.”
The mayor reaffirmed his commitment to eliminating traffic fatalities and injuries through the Vision Zero initiative. De Blasio also reiterated his support for the Crash Rights and Safety Act, a state bill designed to reduce traffic deaths.
“We’re going to apply Vision Zero right here, right now on McGuinness Boulevard, because it’s long overdue,” de Blasio continued. “We are putting money in the budget immediately to redesign and fix McGuinness Boulevard once and for all.”
The five-lane roadway is notoriously dangerous for pedestrians and cyclists, and has been the site of at least 411 injuries and three deaths within the past decade. In 2014, McGuinness Boulevard was designated as a “slow zone” with a 25 mph speed limit and delayed traffic signals, yet accidents have continued at a steady rate.
“Every single one of us knows that it could be any one of us killed there,” Assemblywoman Emily Gallagher said. “If we don’t do something, something meaningful, there will be many more who will die on the McGuinness Boulevard.”
“Over the past few days, I’ve received more than 300 emails from our neighbors in support of redesigning McGuinness Boulevard, a notoriously unsafe road,” added State Senator Julia Salazar. “Implementing a plan to transform McGuinness is how we can honor Matthew Jensen’s memory.”

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