After months of anticipation, McGovern's Tavern, a true Newark icon, is about to see the light of day.
The first thing seen when entering the now-renovated McGovern's are the new windows, a major change from how the dark bar has been for as long as most patrons' living memory.
But for the owners, and for all Newark, change is good.
"It's a whole new Newark. We don't need to barricade everything up anymore," said Pat McGovern, one of the co-owners of the bar, now anticipating a reopening later this month. "We're in a good area. Hopefully, it stays this way for years to come. This is why we're able to do this."
McGovern's, a city cornerstone since 1936, closed for a major renovation in June 2018. A factor in the longer-than-foreseen renovation was tied to its expansion to incorporate a defunct store next door.
"They removed one brick, and 17 fell down," said McGovern, who is co-owner of the bar along with Mike Nagle and Sean McGovern. "That's basically what it was."
What McGovern's is now is largely recognizable. The bar and the murals are the same, with the panoramas of Ireland, Newark and Mount Rushmore now repositioned. In fact, three old murals were found behind one wall, now newly presented.
The walls will still display memories and mementos that are familiar: green and white signs naming longtime customers, family photos, suspended fire and police hats hanging over the bar, successive commemorations of generations of Irish rebels, a Kennedy shrine.
What's different, besides the windows, is a new wood floor and an ornamental tin roof. The extension of the bar now includes a door at the corner of New and Washington streets. The kitchen, which will prepare the same fare, has been refurbished. The bathrooms have been expanded.
But in the end, the ethos of the bar remains the same.
"Look, things were falling apart. It was just time," said McGovern. "From 1936 to 2018, there wasn't a lot done. So we did it. We're not new. We've been here 83 years. People know who and what we are."
McGovern's is now not only fixed within, but built up without. There are now apartments and a law office above the bar, with rent going for about $2,000 a month for a two-bedroom and $1,500 to $1,700 for a studio.
"A lot more people are working down here now," said McGovern, citing the presence of nearby business, educational and medical landmarks such as Audible, Prudential Financial, Rutgers Law School, Panasonic, University Hospital and Saint Michael's Medical Center. "They could use a place to live."
As for McGovern's Tavern, life is about to go on. Bill Scully, an Irish immigrant, longtime bartender, stellar conversationalist and man of the people, will be back behind the bar. So will other favorite staff in a place where familiarity breeds love, not contempt.
And as for the people long awaiting for the bar's return, they won't squint any more when they come in, eyes adjusting to the lack of light. Instead, they'll see McGovern's moment in the sun.
"Yeah. people will say 'There's a lot of light in here.' But look at all these people peeking in the windows. About fifty people a day say to me 'When you open? When you open?' And they look happy," McGovern said.
"We're ready. I think everybody's ready," McGovern added before going back to last-minute preparations "Let the Guinness flow."