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Beloved Bartender to Lead Montauk St. Patrick's Parade

Thu, 03/21/2024 - 04:25
Steve (Puck) Dolan, center, the Montauk Friends of Erin's 2024 parade grand marshal, attended the New York City St. Patrick's Day Parade over the weekend with fellow Friends of Erin, including Eoin McCann, left, and Tommy Martin.
Tom Grenci

Steve Dolan was a bartender at the Montauket for 38 years, but at the same time, he was also a listener, a storyteller, a comedian who specialized in comebacks, a friendly face who reassured while he poured — all the things that a good bartender does. 

Puck, as he’s known, retired in December, but Montauk isn’t done with him just yet: He will serve as grand marshal of the 62nd Montauk Friends of Erin St. Patrick’s Day parade, which will liven up the hamlet with belated Irish cheer on Sunday starting at noon. 

He has downplayed the idea that a bartender could be the grand marshal of a parade, but Brian Matthews, president of the Montauk Friends of Erin, is having none of it. 

“We’ve had the chiefs of police, sitting town councilmen — we run the gamut with our grand marshals,” Mr. Matthews said, “but Montauk is a pretty diverse place, and it takes all sorts to keep a community running. A Montauk bartender is a pretty important position, not to sell it short. Forty years of consistently being there, that deserves to get recognized. It made sense to say, ‘Hey, let’s recognize this guy for what he’s done and how long he’s been here and the role he has played in people’s lives.’ It just fit this year.” 

Mr. Dolan has worn a few tuxedos in his 71 years, but never one with coattails like the one he’ll don for the parade to go with a top hat and emerald-green sash. 

“I worked every St. Patrick’s Day parade for 38 years. I’ve been to every Friends of Erin Golf tournament. I played Santa Claus for a few years. So I was not real surprised, but I was very excited, when they asked me, ‘Would you consider being the grand marshal?’ I said, ‘Are you kidding? It’s a once in a lifetime deal. I’m in.’ “ 

Tomorrow night is the roast, when friends and community members will stand up and take lighthearted and loving verbal jabs at the grand marshal. Mr. Dolan is especially looking forward to this. 

“I think being roasted and picked on by your peers is the greatest form of admiration you can get,” he said. “They all know that they’re gonna get it back. I’m known for that.” 

He arrived in Montauk in 1985 from New Rochelle, where he’d been working at a place called Rudy’s Barge. The family that owned the Barge had also bought the Montauket. When they were getting ready to sell the Barge, “they offered me a job in Montauk,” Mr. Dolan recalled. “I said, ‘Let me know when to pack.’ That’s how it started.” 

Before becoming a bartender at Rudy’s Barge, he was working in carpentry. He recalled how a friend, Jack, roped him into covering a shift at the bar, and never looked back. 

“I made about $50 in tips and Jack gave me $20 for working his shift, and I was ready to throw my tools in the Long Island Sound. Why was I banging nails when I could be doing this?” Mr. Dolan said. “I’m a much better bartender than I ever was a carpenter.” 

He settled not in Montauk but in Springs, and said that’s where he wants to grow old. He’s decided to spend a few wintertime weeks each year in Pompano Beach, Fla., where his favorite drink, a Tito’s-and-soda with a splash of lemonade, at his favorite bar, the Briny Irish Pub, is just $8, as opposed to the $15 it costs in Montauk. But he plans to fish and golf the hell out of the summers here. He’ll also take up babysitting — he’s got two grandsons, Henry, age 6, and Duke, 3, the children of his son, Stephen Dolan Jr., and wife, Caitlin Dolan, who live just around the block from him. 

In recent years, the Montauket was getting too busy for him to keep up, and he decided he was ready to retire. Over a cup of coffee at John Papas Cafe on Monday afternoon, the self-proclaimed “saloonatic” acknowledged that the job had also become his social life. 

“There aren’t many places in East Hampton that are barrooms anymore. They’re all restaurants — there isn’t the same vibe and nothing opens ‘til three in the afternoon,” he said. “I prefer drinking earlier in the afternoon and being home before dark, so I don’t drink as much. I’m not one to sit at home and drink. I have to be in at the bar, where the action is.” 

“The one thing I miss” about the Montauket, he said, “was getting paid every day, going home with a pocket full of money.” 

For this Sunday’s festivities, Mr. Dolan said he hopes the parade’s spectators — projected at 30,000 to 40,000, according to the Friends of Erin –have a grand old time. 

“I’m getting a lot of attention. I wanted to go quietly into the night, but it seems like I’ll have to wait awhile,” he said. “It’s all good. I hope the people will have as much fun as I will.” 

“I’m very happy and proud that they think I’m worthy of being the grand marshal,” Mr. Dolan continued. “Usually it’s somebody with more civic responsibilities, a chief of police, an owner of a restaurant — I don’t know if there’s ever been a bartender who was the grand marshal. I kept ‘em all drunk, I know that.” 

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