At the Blackthorn Restaurant and Pub on Seneca Street where the late Mayor Jimmy Griffin was known to hold court over a pint or two, it seemed the regulars were heeding the four-term mayor’s famous advice for riding out a blizzard: Stay inside and grab a six-pack.
At lunch time Wednesday, as the second blizzard this winter was bearing down on Buffalo, the usual crowd stayed away.
Nobody was sitting at the bar on Seneca Street. And only six people showed up for lunch between 11:30 a.m. and 1:30 p.m.
Even one of the bar’s beer distributors put off making a scheduled delivery.
“Wednesday is normally a busy lunch day for us,” said bartender Don “Doc” Doctor. “But the weather is keeping people away.”
Just then, Doctor spotted a city snowplow through the bar’s front window as it lumbered by through the wet, heavy snow.
The snowplow brought back memories of the late mayor.
“When Jimmy was in office, we’d be the first street to get plowed,” recalled Doctor, 58, who has worked at the bar for two years but has been going there for nearly 38 years.
The bartender also recalled Griffin’s quote during the Blizzard of 1985, which earned hizzoner the nickname “Jimmy Six-Pack” and the city a reputation for coping with whatever the weatherman throws at them.
“A lot of people remember that quote when they think of Buffalo,” he said. “Blizzards seem to bring out the best in people here. We help each other, We snow-blow our neighbors’ walks and driveways. We push people’s cars out of deep snow.”
Although he never met Griffin, bar co-owner Larry “Hugger” Adymy said the former mayor has been great for business, attracting more customers to the South Buffalo bar.
“We live off our South Buffalo business,” he said.
Doctor also remembered when two other South Buffalonians of note – former “Meet the Press” moderator Tim Russert and his father, “Big Russ” Timothy J. Russert Sr. – frequented the bar.
The bartender was interrupted by a ringing phone. “We’re in the middle of a blizzard here,” Doctor told the caller. “A lot of bars are closing. You’re going to run into problems.”
He cut the call short.
“It was some guy calling from a radio station in Seattle looking for comment on a band from out there coming to play in what he called this crappy town,” he told Adymy as he walked by. “He wanted some comment.”
“We’ll pass,” the owner said.
Earlier, Adymy took a call from an employee unable to make it to work. “We’ll get somebody to fill in,” he assured the worker.
He then placed a call to order 2,000 plastic cups for this weekend’s St. Patrick’s celebration.
A few minutes later, his wife called. “What’s it doing now?” she asked. “It’s still snowing,” he told her.
Adymy had a busy day. While he received one delivery of 40 kegs of Guinness for this weekend’s St. Patrick’s celebration from one distributor, another delivery of kegs of Harp and Smithwick’s and some bottled beer that had been scheduled for Wednesday was postponed until today and Friday by his other distributor because of the blizzard.
Meanwhile, Doctor thanked the restaurant’s first two lunch customers of the day for coming in despite the blustery weather.
They were followed by two businessmen, who said they had no trouble driving to the restaurant from Mineral Springs Road, about a mile and a half away.
Later as the men left, two more lunch customers arrived.
“Maybe the snow will let up, and we’ll get a good lunch crowd,” Doctor said.
About a block away, the Buzz-n-Bee convenience store was busy, as customers appeared to be following the late mayor’s advice.
“We’ve been selling the basics – beer, cigarettes, bread, milk and lunch meat,” said cashier Heather Rullan.
“We never close,” she added, “not even during the October surprise storm.”
Mary Espinosa stood in line holding a six-pack of beer and an energy drink. “The beer is for my mom,” she said. “The energy drink is for me.”