Photo by Lincoln Anderson
Martin Sheridan tended to a diesel-powered water pump at the Ear Inn. On the wall behind him, a marking shows where the Manhattan shoreline used to be just west of Greenwich St. before it was extended another two blocks with landfill.
BY LINCOLN ANDERSON | “The most amazing thing is, it went from there to here in about 30 seconds — then it came back, went back, in its time.”
As a diesel generator thrummed loudly and gave off fumes outside the Ear Inn bar near the western end of Spring St. Wednesday morning around 10 a.m., owner Martin Sheridan described experiencing the storm surge Monday evening during Hurricane Sandy.
He didn’t actually see the surge, though, until he and his bar were in the middle of it. He had walked over toward the river to check out the storm conditions, and then when he was returning to the Ear Inn with his back turned to the river, the 3-foot-high wall of water suddenly came rushing.
The sound was just an enormous “whoooosh!” he said.
Anticipating the surge, he had turned off all power at the bar beforehand, hoping to save his electrical equipment from more serious damage from the corrosive salt water.
The water swept into the bar about 1 foot high, then went down into the basement, then came popping up through hatches in the floor, trying to find any way out.
Sheridan had wisely kicked everyone out of the place a half hour before the surge hit, though many had resisted exiting into the 50-mile-per-hour wind gusts and lashing rain.
“People didn’t want to get out. They were afraid to go home,” he said. “The women were frightened,” he said, adding, “Don’t be offended — if you want to put that a little better.”
The bar had beer stored in two large walk-in freezers in the basement and food in another. Of the three, the solid 1920s freezer was the one that fared the best in the deluge.
“The old things held up!” he said with a grin.
The bar has 40 beer taps and Sheridan said they’ll have to test each one to see if they’re salvageable.
Despite the basement having up to 7 feet of water in the rear, as well as 4 feet in the front, the historic building’s foundations are fine, he said.
People from the community pitched in to help, and it was inspiring for the bar owner.
“There was a lot of camaraderie around,” he said, “people coming in and helping, helping out with buckets. I haven’t seen it since 9/11 — people just want to help.”
As he turned back to tend to pumping out the bar’s waterlogged basement, Sheridan said, “We’re all alive. The good news around here is no one got hurt. We can start again.”