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How a Sports Bar Manager Spends Her Sundays

Some people go to Blue Haven East, a sports bar near Midtown, so religiously during football season that they call it church. One regular even had her baby shower there.

If you are nervous about Omicron, this is probably not the place for you. Every Sunday the bar gets so packed that even those with reserved tables have no room to sit. Amid tables stacked high with towers of Budweiser cans, customers scream wildly for their teams, and some dance on top of the bar and belt out songs. “New York Groove” and “New York, New York” are crowd favorites.

The woman presiding over the craziness is Abby Dowd, head bartender and assistant general manager. Every Sunday she spends hours darting around the bar, refilling drinks, greeting regulars by their names and riling up the crowd with props. “My work is almost performative,” she said. “People expect that high energy every Sunday here, and I have to work to make it happen.”

Ms. Dowd, 31, lives in the Murray Hill neighborhood, two blocks from the bar, with her boyfriend, Tate Simkins, 28, who works for a media company.

PREP BEFORE THE SHOW I don’t have to be at work until noon, so I usually wake up around 9 or 9:30 and lie in bed for another half-hour, staring at the ceiling and contemplating how I am going to make it through the day. Once I get to work I have to be on my game 100 percent, whether I feel good or bad, up or down. People expect that of me, and I want to make it happen. I have to prepare myself mentally.

BAGEL FIX When I drag myself out of bed I will work out or go and get bagels from Bagel Express 3. Their bagels are just so squishy, and they come out so warm and melt in my mouth.

JET FUEL On the way to work I stop at a neighborhood coffee shop named Wattle. I go every Saturday and Sunday, so I know everybody who works there. My coffee order is jet fuel to prepare for the mayhem. I get an iced coffee with an espresso shot or two.

BRACING FOR ACTION Our bar is crowded every week. We get totally booked up for Sunday tables by Wednesday at the very latest, sometimes before then. It started because of Covid, actually; we set up screens outside, and people on the sidewalk could see the fun. They all wanted to join in.

The football games start around 1 p.m.; there is a mass influx of people who come at the same time. So I try to get to the bar around noon and make sure everything is fully set up, that the reservations are ready and the tables have the correct number of stools.

SERVER WITH A MEGAPHONE By halftime of the first game, around 2:30, the bar is pretty much in full swing. During this time I am serving drinks, going back and forth between the tables and the bars. For Christmas, a group of girls who come in every Sunday sent five megaphones to us as a gift. It’s a blessing and a curse for everyone because I love mine so much. I’ll be walking with a tray of beers and shots, I’ll get on it and say, “Excuse me, excuse me.”

BANG THE BUCKET It is our tradition that as soon as a New York team scores a touchdown we play “New York Groove.” People loved it so much we started playing it during the playoffs, even though the Jets or the Giants didn’t make it. It’s my job to get the crowd going, and that often involves me taking a bucket that we would put Bud Lights or seltzers in, and getting a bottle opener and literally banging this bucket.

BLURRED LINES By 8:30, when my shift ends, my legs are throbbing, and I am tired and ready to go home. Sometimes I will Irish-exit out the side door, but other days it is so easy to get sucked into the drinking. I know almost every single crew who comes in on a regular basis; the line is blurred between patron and friend at this point. So it’s so easy to go to Patrick’s table and have one drink with them and then go to Lindsey’s table and have one drink with them. Before I know it, I’m still there.

BURRITO BOWL This is so embarrassing because I live in the greatest city in the world that has more food options than anywhere else on the globe, but every Sunday all I want is Chipotle. I get a burrito bowl, the same thing every time. I get there so late, though, that they are usually out of mild salsa, and my level of disappointment when that happens is astronomical. Still, this Sunday ritual is something I can’t quit.

READY FOR THE WEEKEND When I get back home I am still on a high from the day. Even when I try to unwind, everything is so buzzy. I don’t go to bed until 11:30 or 12, but luckily I can sleep in the next day. It’s funny to say, but Mondays are my weekends, and sometimes I am so exhausted Monday morning I can’t move.

Sunday Routine readers can follow Abby Dowd on Instagram at @aabbydowd and @bluehaven_East.

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