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Eat and Drink

The Happiest Hour beverage director on where he goes when he’s off the clock

For some, the first month of the year marks the temperance tradition known as Dry January — a time to lay off the booze and reset after the holiday binge.

For bartender Jim Kearns, every month is Dry January. The beverage director for the West Village hot spot The Happiest Hour, and its subterranean sister spot Slowly Shirley, has been sober for more than two years.

“I was drinking heavily to escape and treat the stress from the job that I do,” Kearns, 41, shared. “I just fell into using it, leaning on it too much. Ultimately, I chose to quit drinking.”

The gig: The Happiest Hour and Slowly Shirley

Jim Kearns, beverage director of Slowly Shirley and
Photo Credit: Slowly Shirley

Kearns still has tastes of cocktails, but he doesn’t have an entire drink for himself anymore.

“That’s personally how I manage what I do,” Kearns said. “I definitely still taste and enjoy tasting cocktails. I appreciate the combinations of flavors and layering of spirits.”

For the most part though, Kearns’ drink of choice is Mexican Coke (the “better” kind made with cane sugar instead of high-fructose corn syrup). 

Since he stopped drinking, the bartender has traded shot-and-beer bars for restaurants.

“I still love bars — when I go to restaurants, that’s where I sit,” he said. “But I generally don’t have the need in my life to go to a place that’s just there to serve booze, obviously.” 

The Carroll Gardens resident tends to stick around his neighborhood when he goes out with his wife, as evidenced by his picks on where he likes to go when he’s not behind the bar.

The neighborhood go-to (of many): Frankies 457 Spuntino

Frankies 457 Spuntino, at 457 Court St., in
Photo Credit: Linda Rosier

“It’s a fairly good restaurant and bar scene over here. We’ve got Prime Meats and Frankies, Leyenda and Clover Club. We’ll tend to go to any combination of those places on my two nights off. [Frankies] is the one that’s down the street essentially from us [Kearns and his wife]. That’s typically the one we go to, though we met working at the one in the West Village. I was a bartender, she was hosting.” 457 Court St., 718-403-0033,

The old gig: Prime Meats

People walk by the popular Brooklyn restaurant Prime
Photo Credit: Spencer Platt/Getty Images

“I worked at Prime Meats for about two years. It’s a beautiful bar. Honestly for my money, it’s one of the better steakhouse burgers that’s out there. It’s always a solid option for steak and other carnivorous indulgences. It’s always a lot of fun.” 465 Court St., Carroll Gardens, 718-254-0327,

The food destination: Clover Club

Clover Club. Photo provided by Clover Club
Photo Credit: Clover Club

“I generally don’t make it out for brunch, I’m usually at work. But I actually really enjoyed brunch at Clover Club, I’ve done that once before. The lunch and brunch at Clover Club are both excellent.” 210 Smith St., Cobble Hill, 718-855-7939,

The friendly hang: Leyenda

Leyenda. Photo provided by Leyenda
Photo Credit: Leyenda

“I know plenty of people at Leyenda [and Clover Club]. They’re just very comfortable, very familiar places that we enjoy going to. They happen to have great food as well. I’m usually eating when I’m at any of those places. I usually go straight for a Mexican Coke, but if I wanted a nonalcoholic cocktail, I’m sure they would be more than happy to mix something up for me.” 221 Smith St., Cobble Hill, 347-987-3260,

Near the ‘office’: Quality Eats, Alta

Quality Eats in the West Village. Credit: Liz
Photo Credit: Liz Clayman

“We’ve got a few great dining options around The Happiest Hour and Slowly Shirley. Quality Eats is a great restaurant. It’s like a stone’s throw away. I definitely love going there to eat. Right across Sixth Avenue there’s Alta. One of the best tapas-style meals I ever had was there.” Quality Eats (pictured), 19 Greenwich Ave., 212-337-9988,; Alta, 64 W. 10th St., 212-505-7777,


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