Two of the Whiskey Wind Tavern’s new owners told Greenport’s Village Board last week that they plan to keep operating the iconic local bar just as it has been for years, right down to the barroom staff.
The new owners addressed the board to describe their plans, backgrounds and experience, seeking village officials support for their liquor license application.
Since the early 1990s, Whiskey Wind has been run by James Kuhlman, who bought it when he was 32. The tavern’s name is a reference to a term used by the U.S. Coast Guard to inform seafarers of weather forecasts. Condition “whiskey” indicates that gale force winds are expected to hit area ports within 72 hours — potentially welcome news to local fisherman eager to wait out the “whiskey winds” in local bars.
Two of the tavern’s several new owners, Paul Monahan and Mike Rose, told village trustees and Mayor Kevin Stuessi that they intended to carry on the tradition of running the tavern as a self-described “dive bar” — laid back, welcoming and serving inexpensive drinks.
Even villagers who don’t imbibe have a nostalgic attachment to the colorful saloon.
After most of the lights go out on Front Street, the neon sign at the Whiskey Wind remains ablaze, welcoming late-night locals in for a drink, camaraderie and some comfort food.
Mr. Monahan said that he has been living in Greenport full time since 2017, the year before he and others opened Matchbook Distilling Co. on Corwin Street.
“I moved to Greenport to start some beverage alcohol businesses [with] some friends and I came and fell in love with Greenport and we opened a distillery,” he said, adding that Mr. Rose has been living and working in Southold since 2019, and is the proprietor of Bogey’s Bottled Goods, a liquor store on Main Road.
Mr. Monahan said he and Mr. Rose met in 2009, when both were working on the opening of a lobby bar in Boston.
The name of the company that purchased Whiskey Wind, Lobby Bar LLC, is an homage to their first project together — what Mr. Monahan called the “little nostalgic entity name that we decided to create for this.”
When Trustee Patrick Brennan asked Mr. Monahan whether the pair have partners in the Whiskey Wind venture, Mr. Monahan said, “They would prefer [to be] left unknown, but they are locals.” The pair also confirmed that between them, they hold a controlling majority stake in the business.
Then Mr. Monahan told a story that seemed to resonate with the Village Board.
Since the Boston lobby bar opening in 2009, he said, “we’ve worked in every facet of the liquor industry, even prior to coming here, for distributors and for suppliers. And we fell in love with the North Fork and Greenport. We wanted to make this our home.
“We had always frequented the iconic bar Whiskey Wind,” he continued. “It’s where we celebrated wins in business, our family, loved ones [or] a place to just grab a beer and watch a game.
“When the opportunity came for us as potential buyers, we really looked at what that bar meant to everybody in the village, what it meant to us personally, and kind of those emotions of nostalgia — and a beautiful fishing village, very similar to where Mike and I grew up on the south shore of Massachusetts — we really wanted to carry it on as great stewards of what the bar has been and what it intends to be.
“So we would continue to operate it as is, if the opportunity is granted to us, for a year-round, great place to come and celebrate all the wins we all have.”
Mr. Monahan said he and Mr. Rose would be at the tavern nightly, learning the ropes.
“Obviously, when you’re taking on a new project, it’s important to kind of get in, get your feet wet, get an understanding of how the day-to-day works,” he said. “And we will be there every night ensuring that we do have that in depth understanding of what it’s supposed to be.”
Still, there will be bumps on the road to reopening.
Mr. Monahan told the board that the beloved bar would have to close down temporarily while the new owners await a liquor license.
“Sadly, that is a point that is out of any new operator’s control. With the New York State liquor license, you do have to close for a certain amount of time,” he said. “Mike and myself have a great [state liquor authority] attorney, because we are in the system already — if you will, for lack of better words — our background checks and fingerprints are already past that introductory applicant phase. And so we’ll look to expedite and make sure we’re up to code with Suffolk County health department with new ownership. And then as soon as that temporary [liquor] license gets emailed … we’ll open up the doors and welcome everybody in.”
After their presentation, Mr. Stuessi said the board would send a letter to the SLA in support of their application and two trustees thanked the men.
“Whether it can speed along the temporary license [or not], we just ask you guys to honor your commitment to the community and run a great business and be good to the employees,” the mayor said.
Trustee Julia Robins and deputy mayor Mary Bess Phillips also expressed support for the new owners.
“Well said,” Ms. Robins told Mr. Monahan and Mr. Rose. “And I’m glad that your intentions are to keep that in place, because it is definitely a local gathering place for many, many people, many generations, so thank you.”
Ms. Phillips said, “Thank you for keeping it real, because that was what we should do.”
Neither Mr. Monahan nor Mr. Rose responded to interview requests following last week’s board meeting.