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Finding Safe Drinking Spots While My Go-To Is Closed

Finding love in new places

Since COVID-19 clamped down on the Queen City, we’ve seen our fair share of change in the nightlife landscape. As I’m writing this, just last week one of my old favorites, Fitzgerald’s in Uptown, announced they’d be closing for good. WHAT?! That was a staple of my stomping grounds when I was runnin’ amok in my early Uptown years. I began to think about how many of those spots I used to love would be closing in the near future — spots that I promised I’d pay a much-needed revisit once I was let back out into the wild.

But just as quickly as the regret settled in, there was a silver lining. Since my beloved watering hole The Corner Pub has been closed, I’ve looked at our relationship as “taking some time apart to figure out who we are” until we can be reunited once again. In that time, I’ve managed to fall for two major new contenders: Cedar Street Tavern Bar (Boyfriend #2) and Pub at Gateway (Boyfriend #3).

And the best part (or worst, depending on how you look at a love triangle) is that each one is within walking distance of Boyfriend #1. Talk about a walk of shame! But hey, I’m not the only one whose relationship is in quarantine turmoil.

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Aerin Spruill

Boyfriend #2 had been waiting in the wings for quite a while. The aroma of alcohol and way too many strangers hit me as soon as I walked through the door *inhaled* Hmmm, it smelled just like home. He’s as worn and as comfy as a vintage leather couch, but he was still a novice to me, which invited me to take a seat. His food doesn’t taste like home base, but he’s fun, plays good music, pours stiff drinks, and waits on you hand and foot while relaxing on the patio. Not to mention, many of his friends are people I met through Boyfriend #1, so quickly, he transitions from being a stranger to someone I’ve known my whole life.

After a couple of dates, the bartenders knew my name and the fact that I was always going to order a cider, water, and/or a shot special. He’s taken the edge off in the interim of being away from Boyfriend #1, but also makes it hard to want to leave, especially when he has to say goodbye early (and now he has an even earlier closing time of 11 p.m. every night). Fortunately, on the nights he closes early, or when I get bored of him, I can run into the arms of Boyfriend #3.

The third boyfriend isn’t as large as number two, but in this case, size really doesn’t matter. Tucked in between Bisonte Pizza Co. and Little Village Grill, I may have overlooked this sidepiece if I hadn’t been introduced to him a year or so ago. He was cute or whatever the first time we met, but it wasn’t until taking a break from Boyfriend #1 that I realized he was actually quite the looker. Then I tasted his food again, saw how cheap my bill was, and realized I’d found a keeper, not a manstress.

Familiar faces from the patios of the other two boyfriends greet me at the door and make me feel welcomed. After 13 years, he’s perfectly worn like an old t-shirt — consistent but not boring, aged but cozy, and you’ll never throw him away. The conversation is engaging but lasts only as long as it is productive. He creates the perfect environment for both the person looking for a long-term relationship or a person like me who wants just to hit and quit it. Spark, flame or longtime lover, he’s always prepared for me to ask for The Italian or Turkey Tomato Basil to go 30 minutes before closing time, knowing it’ll probably be a while before he sees me again. He still makes every to-go plate with love.

I never would’ve guessed I’d be in this situation. Three lovers, one closed for business and the other two ready and willing to fulfill my every need. Two places not far from home that are virtually strangers disguised as my beloved. Dorothy was right, there’s no place like home, but these laidback, neighborhood lovers that breed “regulars,” keep my belly full and my whistle wet come damn near close.

No, I will never say goodbye to my first real love. These two sidepieces can’t replace Boyfriend #1, but they’ve kept me 6 feet of safe and warm during Phase 2. Their willingness to love me despite knowing I’ll be running back into the arms of my previous lover has provided me with the temporary escape I’ve needed. Hell, maybe we could consider a solid post-COVID love triangle.

Read past Aerin It Out columns here. 

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