As Baseball Eyes Return Without Fans, Famous Bars Near Yankee Stadium May Not Survive

The places where fans and even players have stopped at either on their way into or from the Stadium, some around for nearly 100 years, are struggling and won't benefit from fanless games played

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MLB owners have formally proposed to the players' union a shortened regular season that would start in July — good news for anyone who has been missing the sights, smells and sounds of summer that come with America's pastime.

But the proposal may not be able to do much for some businesses in the South Bronx, like the famous restaurants and bars surrounding Yankee Stadium. That's because the idea is to play without fans in attendance, at very least until the coronavirus is completely under control.

During this time of year, nearly all the barstools at Yankee Tavern would be taken up, with the joint filled with those either on their way into or from a game. The bar has been around since 1927, with famous Yankees (Babe Ruth, Joe DiMaggio, Mickey Mantle, just to name a few) and Yankee fans counted among their clientele over the past 93 years.

But now? Owner Joe Bastone worries nobody will ever be here to raise a glass again.

"I don't know if any of us are going to survive," Bastone said, speaking for the handful of other establishments along River Avenue by the elevated subway tracks. The Paycheck Protection Program from the federal governement has helped a few of the struggling bar owners, with Bastone getting approved on his second try.

However, not all have been able to secure that money. John Michialas opened Yankee Twin Eatery Bar in 1997, and business was as good as the Bombers (who were about to go on a stretch of three straight World Series titles).

But now, thanks to COVID-19, it's a different story. Michialas has been shut out from getting help thus far, calling it "impossible to get a loan" — and isn't happy with how the government has handled the situation.

"This is a giant plea. That we're not getting nothing ... The government left all small business owners — not just me, all of them — hanging from a string," Michialas said. "Everybody depends on the Yankees, it's about 60 percent of every business ... A lot of people are hurting, they want to watch sports."

One of the few businesses outside the Stadium to remain open, Michialas has been serving anything he can sell. He's not trying to make a profit; he's just trying to make rent. And if he goes down, he's going down swinging.

"I don't know how I am surviving. I just am. That's it," Michialas said.

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