Plattsburgh’s Home Away From Home
Some have a seat with their name on it, and some even have their mail sent there. Either way, Meron’s is like a home away from home.
Story and photos by Carey Vanderborg
In 1931, during the latter years of prohibition, Henry and Grace Meron opened Meron’s Restaurant at 110 Bailey Avenue, in Plattsburgh. At a time when alcohol was illegal and speakeasies were prevalent, Meron’s was a place that local patrons could visit to enjoy a meal or some good conversation with friends. Throughout the years some things have changed, but the atmosphere is still as welcoming as ever.
“Once prohibition was over in 1933, then it became a bar/restaurant,” says Grace Meron, current owner of Meron’s, and granddaughter of the original owners. “In those days things were very strict, meaning no women were even allowed at the bar.”
During that time, in order for a woman to even be allowed to sit on a barstool, she had to have the man she came with sit right next to her. “Still people come into the bar to this day, and remember that,” Grace says. “Guys remember how when they were younger, they would sneak in with their sisters, but it looked like they were a couple so it didn’t matter.”
"Guys remember how when they were younger, they would sneak in with their sisters, but it looked like they were a couple so it didn’t matter."
Grace's grandmother was so strict that she didn’t even allow girls to sit on other men’s laps. Even holding hands was considered off limits. “She’d be horrified today to see what I see,” Grace says. “But I just have an interest to do it. It’s all I’ve ever known because I grew up with it. My mother grew up with it, my uncle worked here from noon until midnight seven days a week. It’s what killed him.”
“Every Wednesday I know who is going to be at the bar and I know where they are going to sit,” Grace says. “The bar lives off sarcasm and everybody has fun. But you do have your bad days once in a while where you get that one person who will come in and ruin the whole thing.”
During the frigid North Country winter, Meron’s is a warm place where everyone knows each other, and compliments will most likely come in the form of a harsh joke or wisecrack. “It’s the same people in here all the time, and you can count them,” Grace says. “I can tell you who sits there (as she points to a barstool) from three to five, and who sits over there from three to five. And that’s their seat. They even have a parking place.”
"There are things about this place that you know will never change, and that’s why I come here. You can’t beat it."
Most of the clientele at Meron’s have been going there for more than thirty years. Some are divorced, some have wives that have passed, and some are just alone. Either way, they all call it their home away from home.
“Grace brings us home when we need to go home, and delivers our cars at night even,” Tarbox says. “They take care of their regulars here, and that’s something that keeps us all coming back.”
“At seven in the morning, the parking lot will be full,” Grace says. We’re not open, but everyone from the night before just left their car. We even bring the regulars home for them. It’s nothing to do that.”
Whereas they once did in the old days, Meron’s no longer serves food to order, but that does not mean food is forbidden. The bar is happy to host birthday parties, anniversaries, and holiday business parties as long as the food is provided. Like a home away from home, Meron’s plays a host to all sorts of parties such as Halloween parties, Mardi Gras parties, and New Years Eve Parties. And anyone who wants to enjoy their dinner at the bar while sipping a beer is welcome to do so. “So many people who are regulars, bring in their own food,” Grace says. “They come in, they watch their football game, and they bring a pizza. Even on New Year’s Eve, they bring snacks for their table. I don’t mind at all.”
"We come here for the atmosphere and of the course to see the bartenders."
Every Wednesday at Meron’s the same group of guys will come in, sit at the bar, and bring in cold pizza, which Grace will heat up for them.
“We come here for the atmosphere and of the course to see the bartenders,” says Brad North, another regular customer at Meron’s. “Tammy on Sunday’s, Angie on Monday’s, Scottie on Friday’s, Kerstin on Saturday’s. The bartenders here are all special in their own different way.”
If on any given day, a regular isn’t going to come in, he or she will call Grace like a son calling a mother. “Regular customers call me if they’re not coming in,” Grace says. “If they’ve got something going on, or if they don’t feel well, or if they’re waiting for the UPS man. Things like that.”
Meron’s is full of customers who have been going there since they were 18 years-old. Even their parents went to Meron’s. “Many of our customers have been coming here for up to 40 years,” Grace says. “They’re all interesting in their own way with stories of when they were kids here. They tell nasty, dirty stories about how they got away with things in the back room when my grandmother was here.”
If you ever cursed, fought, or broke any of the bar rules when Grace’s grandmother owned the bar, you would not only get thrown out, but you wouldn’t be let back in.“Fighting, she didn’t like that. And if you did it then you were thrown out for life,” Grace says. “I have an older man that still comes here who, at one point had three life sentences. But in order to eventually get back in, he had to apologize and beg for forgiveness.”
"They take care of their regulars here, and that’s something that keeps us all coming back."
Like a house that raised many children, Meron’s was the first bar hangout for many of Plattsburgh’s present day local leaders and officials, who at one point, didn’t even have a job. “Some people used to get their mail here. Some people couldn’t afford to eat so they ate here at night,” Grace says. “They’ve come a long way since then though. One person that still comes here turned out to be a warden at one of the prisons.”
It is safe to say that Meron’s is more than a bar. It is a second home for most of its veterans. It is a place where a man or a woman can come and have a drink in the afternoon, be happy, be depressed, or just be.
“…And if they feel like throwing their insults,” Grace says. “I’m good at throwing them right back.”
Prohibition, also known as The Noble Experiment, was the period from 1919 to 1933, during which the sale, manufacture, and transportation of alcohol were banned nationally as mandated in the 18th amendment to the United States Constitution
On March 22, 1933, President Franklin Roosevelt signed into law an amendment to the Volstead Act known as the Cullen-Harrison Act. allowing the manufacture and sale of certain kinds of alcoholic beverages
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