Foley’s NY: Part 5
by John Delach
Over the years our visits to Foley’s followed a certain rhythm that began with our rendezvous in dreary Penn Station. My Long Island Railroad (LIRR) train arrived on the half-hour meaning I would arrive first just before 11:30 am. On a good day, Mike’s Jersey Transit train arrived 10 to 15 minutes later. On a bad day, its actual arrival was anybody’s guess. Fortunately, the good days outnumbered the bad. We’d meet at one of the columns just outside the LIRR waiting room that we called “the pole.” From there, we’d stroll the three blocks to 18 West 33rd Street.
The bartender, hostess and waiters would warmly greet us and lead or follow us to our table located in the right-hand corner of the dining room. Without our having to ask, the bartender would hold up two imperial pint glasses* as we’d pass by. We would nod slightly signaling her to draw two Guinness’s from the tap.
*An imperial pint is 568 ml while a US pint is 475 ml.
Our golden period was our time with Alish, Deidra and Kathy. It continued when Shaun hired two younger waitresses, Kira and Steffi. These two youngsters exuded Irish wit and charm making sure Mike and I always enjoyed good craic when they were working the floor.
But such is life that relationships end. Deidra was the first to leave. Then we lost Kathy and eventually, both Kira and Steffi at the same time.
Still, good times continued as staff came and left. Foley’s remained our luncheon home where life was good and never disappointed. In time, Steffi returned as Shaun’s assistant manager.
Mike Scott’s went through two extended rough periods health-wise. He suffered a serious fall in 2016 that put him on the injured reserve list for several months. I arranged for Shaun, Papa John and me to visit Mike once he was recuperating.
His second crisis began at the end of 2018, a crisis that was exacerbated by a mistaken diagnosis. This mistake gave free rein for the actual problem, a failing heart valve, that continued to wreck his health during 2019. This led to several hospital and nursing home / rehab stays all to no avail. Finally, the real culprit was found! Long story: short, after receiving the far less invasive TAVR valve replacement procedure at NYU in Manhattan he recovered in relatively short order. Thank God!
Still, he remained fragile. I had kept Shaun abreast of all of Mike’s progress and setbacks and he volunteered to visit Mike with me. We drove down together to Red Bank, NJ on December 18, 2019 and had a lively lunch at a pizza trattoria on the beach.
During our return ride, Shaun voluntarily alerted me that Foley’s 33rd Street location would eventually be gone. “The owners’ agent informed me they aren’t going to renew the lease.” (I believe it had two or three more years to run.)
Shaun spelled out several alternative scenarios, “I might look for a new location around Tampa, Florida. Vegas is an option, or I might just rent out my collections to other sports bars. I know an attorney who specializes in those kind of leases and he thinks I have enough to outfit four or five bars.”
I asked questions, but decided not to ask, “Why not another Manhattan location?” Shaun was a proud saloon keeper and, if he didn’t raise that as a realistic alternative, neither would I.
Mike gained sufficient strength and confidence to meet me at the pole for what turned out to be our last lunch at Foley’s on March 5, 2020.
Our place was quiet that day. Shaun had shipped Papa John back to Cavan in February after John had been whipsawed by the flu with a case so bad that he had to be briefly hospitalized.
Shaun was in Florida and Tom Cahill couldn’t make it that day. We knew Covid 19 was spreading but I don’t recall a sense of imposing doom. Steffi greeted Mike as her long-lost friend. We had out typical Foley’s lunch, gossiping about our former Marsh adventures and colleagues, living and dead, the state of the world, this and that and so it goes. .
Nine days later, the governors of Connecticut, New Jersey and New York announced a quarantine. A complete closure dropped down on all of us like an iron curtain, this time, not one of ideology, but rather, one caused by an extreme health crisis.
I knew things were bad and it would be hard for Foley’s to survive, but it wasn’t until Shaun’s May 28 phone call that I knew the game was over.
Near the end of October, Shaun Clancy posted a selfie on his Facebook Account. The photo showed him standing on the southside of 33rd Street with the façade of number 8 West 33rd Street visible over his left shoulder. The red doorway and glass doors remained but the top sign That proclaimed FOLEY’S NY in gold letters placed on a black background had been covered with a crude sign that announced:
FOR RENT: Tony Park, 917-843-5622, Text Only
Sadly, the photograph reminded me of a line from my favorite baseball novel, Bang the Drum Slowly: “Sad, it makes you want to laugh; sad, it makes you want to cry.”
Frank Sinatra included a song in his repertoire, There Used to be a Ballpark Here, in memory of Ebbets Field:
And there used to be a ballpark
Where the field was warm and green
With a joy I’ve never seen
And the air was such a wonder
From hot-dogs and beer
Yes, there used to be a ballpark here.
It will be all too soon when few, if any, will recall that there used to be an outstanding sports bar called, Foley’s NY, at 18 West 33rd Street where “everything was six, two and even.”
Just goes to show Delach that even a full blood Cherokee Indian has a bit of Irish coursing through his veins. As an actual Irishman have never had a lot of time for some of the more ersatz Irish bars in NY – but Foleys sounds like a real treasure. Brilliant stuff – and good to hear Scott is still truckin’.
Very nice tribute series, John
Tom Briggs +1.917.842.6791