New Jerseyans flock to bars after Sandy keeps them indoors

NEPTUNE CITY, New Jersey Mon Nov 5, 2012 5:27am IST

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NEPTUNE CITY, New Jersey (Reuters) - One Jersey Shore woman said she felt claustrophobic at home, a man said he suffered cabin fever while said they were sure they were going "stir crazy." Many people shut in by superstorm Sandy broke the monotony Sunday by taking to a cozy barstool with a drink in hand.

Since Monday night at 8:15 p.m., when the storm knocked out power, Paulette Balla had been forced to sit at home in Asbury Park in the darkness wearing "a hoodie, a sweatshirt, a pair of gloves" and swaddled in two blankets to stay warm, she said. The only time she ventured out before Sunday was to hunt for gasoline.

But as she sat at the crowded bar at Clancy's Tavern in Neptune City and enjoyed the heated room and the glow from her friends' faces, the hardship the storm had forced on her was gone.

"This is like heaven," said Balla, 60. "It is great to be out. I felt claustrophobic at home."

The inability to fire up the furnace as the nights grew colder last week was very difficult to take. "I have been using hot tap water for my tea. It didn't really make it," she said.

People along the East Coast and especially New Jersey have had to face unaccustomed privation - little to no hot food, showers, cable TV, electricity and Internet.

Steve McLaughlin, 59, of Avon, said he loves his mother in law "dearly." The 87-year-old woman had recently moved into a nearby apartment, but when Sandy knocked out her heat, he and his wife took her in and sat her in front of the fireplace in their living room.

"I've had no TV, Internet and heat. I have experienced cabin fever with my mother in law in the cabin," he said as he sat at the bar at Darcy's Tavern in Bradley Beach. After a pause he diplomatically continued: "But I do love her dearly."

He took his first "leisure trip" out on Sunday. He was enjoying the football games, a few beers and the heightened conviviality, he said he felt from the crowd. "Everyone here is having a very good time."

Bar Anticipation in Lake Como is among the most popular bars on the Jersey Shore because of its big name bands, multiple TVs and very large and lively crowds - especially on Sundays during football season when there is a free hot buffett.

Johnnie B., the manager for 12 years, who did not want to give his last name, said he had never seen the appreciation for what the bar offers as he did Sunday.

"A mother and daughter came up to me and said 'Thank you, thank you,' because they hadn't eaten in two days," he said. "One friend had been stuck in his second floor because of the floodwater, and when he got here today, he ate and ate."

This isn't a typical bar buffet of burgers, hot dogs and cold fries. Instead, a line of tables leading to the bar's entrance were laden with a huge bowl of king crab legs, and there were platters of barbecued chicken, hero sandwiches, pasta, guacamole and salads served up by four people. Inside, the place was packed.

"I made sure we had more today because I knew we'd have a bigger crowd," the manager said. "People told me they have been going stir crazy. They need to mingle, watch the game and enjoy a drink."

The bar has its own generator so it has been open every night since the storm. "People came here despite the storm this week," he said. "Here there is a sense of normalcy. If we were closed, they would think things were really bad."

(Editing by Cynthia Osterman)

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