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