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BY JANEL BLADOW | The storm that nearly wiped out all of the South Street Seaport a year ago, hit Jeremy Holin particularly hard. Superstorm Sandy struck all three of the Holin family restaurants-bars. Talk about a grand slam. A triple whammy.
But that didn’t slow down the sixty-something former school teacher who came to the neighborhood more than four decades ago and began selling beer in big Styrofoam cups from a street cart.
Within two weeks, before any other places in the neighborhood, all three of his locations were back, up and running — to a point.
Jeremy’s Ale House (215 Front St.), his first and namesake establishment, reopened last year on Nov. 13, two weeks to the day of the storm. The Ale House — a well-known crusty bar-restaurant that has been a draw for tourists, college students, sports fans and neighbors alike for more than 40 years — had been under three feet of water. And it is at least five-feet above street level.
The family’s second spot, Meade’s (22 Peck Slip), operated by Jeremy’s son Lee, was a total disaster with water rising, at some places, over the average person’s head. Water leveled off around five feet inside the pub, taking out everything on the ground floor but the bar. The appliances, furniture and all ground-floor machinery needed to be scrubbed, sanitized or swapped.
And their third and newest location, Jeremy’s Ale House East — a waterfront pub and restaurant opened in 2004 on the Nautical Mile in Freeport, Long Island, managed by his son Jason — was also in ruins. All the equipment, supplies and bar were under 6-feet of water. The outdoor deck was off its hinges and had floated up and stuck on a beam. All the equipment and food needed to be replaced.
As the waters were receding the day after the storm, Holin hopped in his car and drove into Manhattan from his Queens home.
“I came to see how terrible it was,” he said this month. “Water was almost said to the top of the bar, over the tops of the tables. Here, everything is in the basement.”
He was shocked by the devastation. In the kitchen, the industrial refrigerator — filled with food and supplies — was tossed over. In the basement, a freezer full of food and weighing 300 pounds was turned on its side.
“As I was checking around, everyone started coming in,” he remembered.
One by one they drifted in. Jeremy’s staff appeared and started working, sweeping out water and floating bags of spoiled fish, calamari and shrimp. They hauled out black garbage bags by the ten-fold filled with soggy unfrozen fries, soaking packages of napkins. They hosed the floor and scrubbed with bleach and sanitizers. They disinfected the walls and what refrigeration equipment they could save.
“We had to scrub and tear stuff down, throw out liquor and beer,” he said. “We had to put in new wiring, new compressor, and new beer system. Salt water got into everything.”
Over at Meade’s, Lee Holin was joined by his staff and several neighbors who went through a similar drill. The pub lost all food and supplies kept in the ground floor kitchen. The bar top was so damaged that it was replaced with a four-by-eight. Luckily, most of their paper products, bar supplies and liquor were on the second floor. They don’t have a basement.
In Freeport, staff and patrons pitched in, dragged out debris and lifted the deck off the beam.
Meanwhile, Jeremy used his car as a mobile office, shuttling between home, Freeport and the Seaport. He was often pulled to the side of the road, working two phones, calling suppliers and repairmen, especially while all three businesses still didn’t have phone or internet service.
“I owe it all to my staff,” he said. “They didn’t have to come in. They came in on their own. That was the beauty. They’re amazing.”
At the Ale House, beer bottles were being uncapped. Customers at Meade’s wrote notes and cursed Sandy on the new temporary bar top. Both places did a slow roll-out, adding more items and serving food as more appliances were fixed. Same was happening at the place on Long Island.
“Business over the winter and through this summer was not as bad as it would seem,” Holin said. “But business was nothing like it was, but better than I thought it would be.”
Holin estimates he sustained well over $250,000 in damages. It could have been worse if it wasn’t for the help of his crew and customers who immediately rolled up their sleeves.
“New Yorkers are a strange breed. They hardly say hello to each other but come together in times of stress.”