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Boston bars warm up locals during storm

Lincoln Tavern & Restaurant in South Boston was busy during the blizzard.

Barry Chin/Globe Staff

Lincoln Tavern & Restaurant in South Boston was busy during the blizzard.

This story was reported by Callum Borchers, Casey Ross, Michael B. Farrell, Jenifer B. McKim, and Robert Weisman and written by Borchers.

They became like sledding hills for grown-ups, places where unburdened workers and friends gathered to have a good time on a day when a powerful storm swept away many people’s daily responsibilities. Bars and restaurants throughout the Boston area were packed Friday with revelers who treated the approaching blizzard like a grade school snow day, except they sat on stools instead of toboggans and sipped pints of beer rather than mugs of cocoa.

Gerry Burke, owner of Doyle’s Café in Jamaica Plain, likened the high spirits to the glee in his neighborhood during the blizzard of ’78, when he and his buddies romped outside for days.

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“Everybody’s in a really good mood,” Burke said. “It sounds kinda weird, but people are psyched up.”

Early in the evening at Flann O’Brien’s on Mission Hill, patrons huddled next to a fireplace in the bar, trying to warm up over their favorite drinks.

“I wouldn’t be here if it wasn’t for the storm,” said Allison Joyce, 38, a social worker at Boston Children’s Hospital. On a normal Friday, she probably would have just gone home after work.

But Joyce and her friends said there was something exciting about being out in the storm, and it was an excuse to linger in town and share the moment. “It took a blizzard to get us to come for a pint,” said her co-worker, Noel Comer.

Many establishments closed early, citing dangerous roadways and a shuttered MBTA system that halted transportation for employees and patrons. But some, especially those in walkable urban areas, remained open or even expanded their hours, positioning themselves as well-stocked shelters — for those with a valid ID.

By 2:30 p.m., the Warren Tavern in Charlestown resembled a bustling ski lodge, with patrons walking through the door wearing parkas and snow pants, trading stories about braving treks to the bar through sideways-whipping snow gusts. Many had stayed home from work or, like Kate Garrett, 31, left early to beat the gathering storm.

“This was about the only place open in the neighborhood,” she said.

The bar’s manager, John Harnett, said he expected to stay open until the usual 1 a.m. closing time, noting that he is the only employee who does not live within walking distance and planned to spend the night at the nearby Marriott hotel.

Harnett said he would return home to Lynnfield after the storm lifts Saturday. Until then, he is counting on plenty of company.

“Usually people just hunker down here for storms — stay right through breakfast, lunch, and dinner,” Harnett said.

A few blocks away, at The Ironside Grill, Jessie Haigh and Melissa Kalicin walked in at about 4 p.m. wearing goggles and head-to-toe skiing gear after a journey through the city. They had tried to get to the Top of the Hub restaurant in the Prudential Tower, hoping for a surreal vantage point on a historic storm. But the restaurant, they were told, was closed.

“I’m disappointed,’’ said Haigh, “but happy we made it here.”

Ironside manager Abdel Samir said he had to send his kitchen staff home at 2:30 p.m., so they could catch trains before the T stopped running. That left the bar only able to serve beverages and chips and salsa. Nonetheless, it remained full as evening approached.

“We’ve gotten a zillion calls from people wondering if we’re open,” Samir said. “We’ll stay here as long as we have power.”

Some bars opened unusually early to cater to people who were snowed out of work or school.

Lincoln Tavern & Restaurant in South Boston, which normally opens at 5 p.m. on Fridays, welcomed its first guests at 11 a.m.

“We realized [Thursday] night that 80 percent of the people in our neighborhood wouldn’t be at work, so we decided to open up early,” said bar manager Mike Shaw. “We went crazy on social media telling people we were going to be open.’’

By early afternoon, all the stools at both of the tavern’s bars were occupied, and the restaurant was at about half its 300-person capacity. Shaw said he had increased the bar’s stock on Thursday, anticipating a snow-day rush. Friday’s special hours, he said, were a way to promote the new restaurant, which opened in October.

At Conor Larkin’s Grill & Tap, near the campus of Northeastern University, general manager Matt Pian was looking forward to a busy afternoon and evening of serving college students with no classes to attend and plenty of time to party. Just before 1 p.m., the small bar with room for 93 already was a quarter full.

“In the past, we’ve done well on these kinds of days,” Pian said. “School is closed, so you know students are around.”

David Nystrom, a bartender at Shays Pub & Wine Bar in Harvard Square, was fielding calls Friday afternoon from local hotels looking for places to steer guests. Nystrom happily informed the hotels that Shays was one of the few establishments staying open during the storm and that everyone was welcome to join the early-arriving regulars he was already serving.

“I’m seeing people I would normally see three hours from now,” Nystrom said.

Bill Honeycutt, who owns bars and restaurants in Newton, Waltham, and Malden, said all three did a brisk lunch business Friday in the early hours of the blizzard. But he said he would have to close his John Brewer’s Tavern in Malden and Waltham for the evening because Governor Deval Patrick’s traffic ban prevented his staff from getting to work.

“The lunch business in all three restaurants was great because people weren’t working,” Honeycutt said. “We’re kind of mad at the governor because of the driving ban. It’s not going to get bad till 8 o’clock, but I can’t get my staff here.”

Nearby in West Newton at the Cherry Tree Bar and Grille, manager Pamela Roy said she planned to continue serving food and drinks into the evening, even though some workers were unable to come in because of the driving ban.

“I’m a little nervous because of the storm,” Roy said, “but I’ve got a cook here and I’ve got a bartender. And we’re going to stay open as long as we can.”

By 4 p.m. in Coolidge Corner, Brookline, most stores were closed except for a few bars and restaurants offering customers who lived nearby a warm place to hide from the weather.

Hops N Scotch, a new restaurant and bar on Beacon Street, opened its doors at noon rather than the scheduled 5 p.m. It offered a smaller menu and drew dozens of patrons, including teachers, social workers, and computer specialists.

“This is our snow-watching, beer-drinking place,’’ said Jeff Hannan, 26, explaining that he sat at the same table during an earlier storm.

Hannan and his three friends, all in their 20s, said they were not panicked about the blizzard. As city dwellers, they were confident stores would be open by at least Sunday so they could restock. They had heard enough about the fabled 1978 storm that they were hoping to have something of equal proportions to brag about.

Not far away, on Harvard Street, the Coolidge Corner Clubhouse planned to stay open until last call at 1:30 a.m. Jennifer Sullivan, assistant general manager, said the restaurant made sure staff had a place to stay locally and unless the lights went out, or the owner called, they would be serving beer, wine, and cocktails and their signature fries until early morning.

At the bar, three college friends sat together drinking cocktails and tapping on their phones — the start of what they hoped to be an adventurous night in Brookline and Allston. The women, Katherine Duval, Jackie Chuck, and Ali Pagliarini, decided to bunk together at one of their homes in Brookline so they could have company during the storm.

As for essential provisions, Pagliarini said she had it covered.

“I ordered enough Chinese food to last through the weekend,” she said.

Callum Borchers can be reached at callum.borchers@globe.com.
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