In the Quiet of the Bar
It was a cold, rainy November afternoon in Boston, and the North End bar scene was unusually quiet.
Sullivan’s Tap is known for being the longest bar in Boston, a fact proudly touted on a sign on the wall. It’s a sports bar to the core, located right outside of The Garden, and it is the perfect spot to celebrate after a victory for any Boston sports team.
This afternoon, however, there were no raving fans filling the long expanse of bar.
The only person at Sullivan’s was Matt Coleman, that afternoon’s bartender, who had recently made a discovery about the bar.
“The other day, we had some guys coming in from Comcast putting in line, they came up [from the basement] and low and behold they found swords,” Coleman said. “Wanna see one?”
Coleman then opened the door behind the bar, and led me down narrow staircase to an old cellar. There were wooden crates piled against the wall, filled with beverages ready for the later that night, making the already narrow corridors a tight fit. Coleman opened an old wooden door to reveal a small closet, where he proceeded to show me the two swords that had been uncovered in the days prior.
“This one is rusted into the scabbard,” said Coleman, referencing the sword in his left hand. “I really don’t know if they are worth anything, but you never know.”
At the Green Dragon Tavern, normally a bustling hot-spot during the lunch hour, was nearly empty.
“It’s usually really busy, but I think the weather is killing us a bit. Usually from 11:30 to 1:00 you fill up the whole place,” Chris said, the bartender on shift that afternoon.
The bar was set up already for the Christmas season, with large Nutcrackers in the windows and wreaths and holly already adorning the mirrored back wall of the bar. I ordered a clam chowder, one of the more popular lunch items on the menu, and just enjoyed the pleasant atmosphere of the tavern.
Even the music seemed to fit into the relaxed theme, as the usual sound system was broken, and replaced with a mellow playlist from one of the employee’s laptops.
While usually not as quiet, the tavern is still a relaxing place most evenings to enjoy a drink or two.
“A lot of people… they want to have drinks after work, but they also don’t want to deal with rush hour, even taking the train and be[ing] packed in, might as well have two beers and kill an hour, that’s my excuse anyway,” Chris said.
None of the other bars in the area had many patrons at the time either: Dirty Nelly’s, The Green Dragons Sister Bar, had a few of the regulars and The Tap had a couple of already drunk patrons.
The Tap was more modern, architecturally speaking, than the Green Dragon. It had chrome beer taps crowning the mahogany bar and more area for seating and dancing then the cramped revolution area design of the classic tavern. Bare-bulb incandescent lamps hung directly above the bar, lending an artificial yellow tint to the lighting. Two men, in their mid-twenties, sat at the bar watching ESPN and discussing the 50 year anniversary of the Kennedy Assassination. Their conversation then turned to past experiences in The Tap.
“I can tell you a great story” said one of the young men at The Tap’s bar, who himself looked and sounded a little tipsy. “We used to come here for soccer games, it was a big soccer bar, so when [teams would] play the world cup, this place would be packed. We had, like, 15 pitchers and I ended up throwing up outside, then I came in and they served me more booze, and I wasn’t 21.”
He had a smirk on his face while recounting this story, and he and his buddy laughed at the good memories of their early college years.