After virus claims bar owner, son steps in to revive him


NEW YORK – Adam Glenn pulled the handle of the faucet, poured a Bud Light and passed a drink to a customer at Jimmy’s Corner, his family’s dive bar just off Times Square.

He watched the front door as customers returned for the first time in 18 months, and Etta James’ “At Last” played on the jukebox. The rule of the house – let’s not talk about politics here – remained posted behind the bar and new regulations were enforced.

“Can I see your identity card and your vaccination record?” ” He asked.

Sam Gong, a newcomer, provided both. Glenn examined them.

“You just need to lower your mask a bit,” said Glenn.

Gong obeyed.

“What can I bring you? Glenn asked.

Glenn, 40, lost his father, Jimmy Glenn – a boxer, trainer and cut man – to covid-19 in May 2020. He was 89 and had always been home at 10 a.m. each night with a pistol -grip cane and brown Stetson. Ragged electrical tape held the brass rail, and Jimmy had left behind his old equipment – suturing scissors, adrenaline and petroleum jelly – in a briefcase.

To reopen, Adam Glenn combined family savings and government assistance. In defiance of inflation, beers still cost $ 3, cash only.

“We were ready for a rainy day,” he said. “You never think it’s going to rain that long.”

Jimmy knew the value of a waterhole. He grew up as the grandson of a sharecropper in South Carolina before migrating to Washington, then Harlem at age 14. Jimmy studied welterweight and fought Floyd Patterson before becoming a coach. At 25, he became a father and raised six children with his wife, Wynola, before they divorced.

He taught children to box on the fifth floor of the Third Moravian Church in Harlem and built a reputation for personality. Around this time, he met Swietlana Garbarska, a Jewish emigrant from Poland named Swannie. He first saw her at Club 140, the site of what is now Jimmy’s Corner.

He was 40 years old and a client; she was 24 and a bartender. She was originally from Dzierzoniow and graduated in Russian Literature from the University of Warsaw. In December 1967, she flew to New York, where she planned to explore and work for six months. But when she wrote home in 1968, her parents told her to stay. Anti-Semitism was spreading; they were leaving for Israel.

Together, Jimmy and Swannie – who would become life partners – opened Jimmy’s Corner on the ground floor of a three-story brick building in the middle of 44th Street when Mafia and wreckage ruled Times Square.

The bar, with its long, narrow hallway, attracted an eclectic cast that included Broadway stagehands as well as Finnish director Aki Kaurismaki. Jimmy ran his house like a reliquary, filling his hole in the wall with framed photographs of fellow pugilists and pasting snapshots of customers on the bar. He nailed a Madison Square Garden ringside bell to the stucco wall, and if anyone rang it, he had to buy a round at the bar. In 1979, a producer working on Martin Scorsese’s “Raging Bull” quit. Soon after, Jimmy Glenn Jr. showed up for work after school to find the bar transformed into a movie set.

“The craziest, coolest, and most absurd show,” said regular Tom Berman recently.

Adam Glenn, Jimmy and Swannie’s only child, was born in 1981. He spoke Polish before English, and first climbed on a chair to fill a bucket of ice at the bar when he was 3 years old. At age 7, he took cash deposits at the bar. at the bank. When he was a teenager, he stayed at the bar past midnight before coming home with his mother. They waited for Jimmy’s return after the closing.

“Our family time was at 4 am,” he said.

Adam Glenn excelled in school, graduating from Stuyvesant High – the city’s flagship public school – and Wesleyan University in Connecticut before returning to New York City in 2003. He honed his oratory skills in debate bar before enrolling in Harvard Law School. He then worked at Simpson Thacher & Bartlett, a law firm four blocks from Jimmy’s, where he describes himself as a “monster,” billing 2,500 hours a year. Yet he moonlighted as a bartender. One weekend his parents left, so he worked in the back, sticking his head out to watch customers as he made a deal.

In May 2014, Swannie – who had smoked for 50 years – was diagnosed with rectal and lung cancer. She underwent chemotherapy, but poured her last beer this fall. To help his father, Adam placed orders and kept the books. In January 2015, Swannie passed away. Soon after, Adam left the law to manage the fighters, as well as the bar.

“The law was not going to satisfy me forever,” he said.

A few years ago, the building next to Jimmy’s Corner was to be demolished by the Durst organization, and considerations were also taken to level Jimmy’s. Douglas Durst, the president, used to drop his kids off at the bar for Jimmy to babysit while they played pinball. Jimmy also once saw two men following Durst’s father, Seymour, and followed them for 18 blocks until Seymour came home. Durst remembered this and spared Jimmy’s Corner.

“We couldn’t do that to Jimmy,” said Durst, who demolished the building next door and then installed steel beams in the vacant lot to physically support Jimmy’s Corner.

On March 14, 2020, as the coronavirus pandemic began to ravage New York City, Jimmy went to the bar at 2 a.m. after spending a few nights away. Two days later, the city ordered the facility closed, and Adam stayed with Jimmy. Then, in early April, Adam, his girlfriend and Jimmy stopped by the bar to put new CDs in the jukebox.

But by the time they left, Jimmy looked worn out. A few days later, Adam took him to the NYU Langone ER, and he fought so he could visit his father. Jimmy passed away a month later.

“It just seemed indestructible,” Durst said. “It was hard to imagine that he was no longer with us.”

Adam vowed to reopen the bar and received help from the Small Business Administration’s Paycheck Protection Program. He reviewed his father’s affairs, which were sound.

One day, Jimmy’s grandson Donta uploaded a playlist of the biggest hits from the jukebox to Spotify to make regulars feel like they’re at the bar. When they officially reopened last month, Adam and Jimmy Jr. displayed one of their father’s hats and canes in a memorial, but a few weeks later someone stole them.

On a recent Saturday, “Crimson and Clover” performed as spectators carried posters, opened tabs and paid tribute. Business was picking up even as the Partnership for New York City, a nonprofit made up of business leaders, reported that only 28% of Manhattan office workers were back on weekdays. International travelers were due to arrive soon to give tourism a boost, and Adam answered the pay phone on the wall – the only landline – to confirm the bar was open.

“I have no illusions that a three-story building is going to survive Times Square for another 100 years,” he said, “but while he’s there – and I hope it will be another 20 to 30 years – we want to be here. “

At around 2 a.m. he left and Jimmy Jr. heard glass shattering up front. A drunk man came across a framed photo of Muhammad Ali fixing his right fist on Jimmy’s chin in Jimmy’s old gym. The offender offered to pay $ 5 for it.

“You have to go,” Jimmy Jr. said.

He took the broken glass to the back office, where a few of his father’s corner jackets were still hanging on a shelf. He watched the last revelers and recited Jimmy’s lullaby, the one he sang to customers on the last call.

“Baby, don’t you wanna go home? ” he said. “Why are you still sitting in my bar? Isn’t there a man or a woman? It doesn’t matter as long as you have love waiting for you.”

Bartender Karriem Mitchell, 42, center, pauses in front of Jimmy’s Corner on November 6, 2021. MUST CREDIT: Photo for The Washington Post by Yana Paskova


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