Since I became a Republican, it seems my friends only want to drink at private clubs overlooking Central Park, where men are required to wear jackets and something called “slacks,” and the fur-clad old ladies have hairdos best described as architectural. I’ve never felt comfortable in these places and prefer the company of another old lady, the dowager of downtown and empress of the East Village: Ludwika “Lucy” Mickevicius.

When I first started going to Lucy’s, she’d still let you smoke inside, if she liked you, and today the drop ceiling remains stained a hearty beef-stew...

Since I became a Republican, it seems my friends only want to drink at private clubs overlooking Central Park, where men are required to wear jackets and something called “slacks,” and the fur-clad old ladies have hairdos best described as architectural. I’ve never felt comfortable in these places and prefer the company of another old lady, the dowager of downtown and empress of the East Village: Ludwika “Lucy” Mickevicius.

When I first started going to Lucy’s, she’d still let you smoke inside, if she liked you, and today the drop ceiling remains stained a hearty beef-stew brown, reminding you of freer, more reckless times. A former clothing sweatshop, Lucy’s is bathed in atomic red light; the linoleum floors are decomposing; there are two pool tables, two drinking tables, an internet jukebox, and a solid oak bar to which, during a visit in November, Valentine’s Day decorations were affixed.

Dusty glassware sits in a cabinet behind the bar alongside a bottle of Lady Gaga’s Fame fragrance, a Yankees figurine and a sticker of Pope John Paul II. The cash register is seventy years old and drinks are priced according to how much Lucy likes you. If she slides shots of Polish vodka your way, you’re in her especially good graces.

On a Friday night, Lucy, in tan trench coat and floral silk scarf, sits at the end of the bar, where you’ll usually find her, talking to regulars. Everyone at Lucy’s thinks they have a special relationship with the grandmother of Avenue A, as she’s sometimes called, and this keeps folks respectful, even the usually obnoxious New York University students.

Forty-three years ago, Lucy, then an office worker in Poland, immigrated to New York, where she became such a fixture behind a bar called Blanche’s that patrons started calling the joint Lucy’s. After about twenty years, the owner gave the bar to Lucy.

I once said that when Lucy’s closes, it’ll be time to leave New York. That was seventeen years ago. There’ve been plenty of scares. Lucy often locks the grate over the front door and closes shop without notice for weeks on end to take trips back to Poland. The bar only has one employee, Lucy, but her daughters and granddaughters help occasionally these days. She’s eighty now and, although it’s exhausting, Sisyphean work, says she prefers being at the bar to being home in her apartment a few blocks away. Many of the regulars feel the same.

This article was originally published in The Spectator’s January 2023 World edition.