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How a sports bar manager spends her Sundays

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

If you’re nervous about Omicron, this probably isn’t the place for you. Every Sunday the bar is so crowded that even those with reserved tables have no place to sit. Amid high tables stacked with towers of Budweiser cans, patrons shout wildly for their teams, and some dance above the bar and sing songs. “New York Groove” and “New York, New York” are crowd favorites.

The woman presiding over the madness is Abby Dowd, head bartender and assistant general manager. Every Sunday, she spends hours running around the bar, refilling drinks, greeting regulars by name and teasing the crowd with props. “My work is almost performative,” she says. “People expect this great energy every Sunday here, and I have to work to make it happen.”

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

PREPARATION BEFORE THE SHOW I don’t need to be at work until noon, so I usually wake up around 9 or 9:30 a.m. and lie in bed for another half hour, staring at the ceiling and thinking about how I’m going to spend the daytime. Once at work, I have to be 100% on my game, whether I’m feeling good or bad, up or down. People expect this from me and I want this to happen. I have to mentally prepare myself.

BAGEL SET When I drag myself out of bed, I go to work out or pick up bagels at Express Bagels 3. Their bagels are so spongy, and they come out so hot and melt in my mouth.

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

PREPARE FOR ACTION Our bar is packed every week. We are totally booked for Sunday tables no later than Wednesday, sometimes before. It started because of Covid, actually; we put screens outside and people on the sidewalk could see the fun. They all wanted to participate.

Football matches start around 1:00 p.m.; there is a massive influx of people coming at the same time. So I try to get to the bar around noon and make sure everything is set up, reservations are ready and tables have the right number of stools.

SERVER WITH MEGAPHONE At halftime of the first match, around 2:30 a.m., the bar was almost in full swing. Meanwhile, I serve drinks, going back and forth between tables and bars. For Christmas, a group of girls who come every Sunday sent us five megaphones as gifts. It’s a blessing and a curse for everyone because I love mine so much. I’ll walk around with a tray of beers and shots, get on it and say, “Excuse me, excuse me.”

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

BLURRED LINES At 8:30 a.m. when my shift ends, my legs are throbbing and I’m tired and ready to go home. Sometimes I go Irish-out the side door, but other days it’s so easy to get sucked into the drink. I know almost all the crews who come regularly; the line is blurred between boss and friend at this point. So it’s so easy to go to Patrick’s table and have a drink with them, and then go to Lindsey’s table and have a drink with them. Before I know it, I’m still here.

BURRITOS BOWL It’s so embarrassing because I live in the biggest city in the world that has more dining 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, however, that they usually run out of mild salsa, and my level of disappointment when that happens is astronomical. Still, this Sunday ritual is something I can’t give up.

READY FOR THE WEEKEND When I get home, I’m still on a high for the day. Even when I try to relax, everything is so buzzing. I don’t go to bed until 11:30 or noon, but luckily I can sleep the next day. It’s funny to say, but Mondays are my weekends, and sometimes I’m so exhausted on Monday mornings that I can’t move.

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