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No electricity needed at The Cortland

The Cortland in Bay Shore stayed open for

The Cortland in Bay Shore stayed open for business on Halloween, even though Hurricane Sandy knocked out the electricity. A couple of tea lights and small candles provided all the evening's illumination. (Oct. 31, 2012) Photo Credit: Ian J. Stark

Although it currently has no electrical power, The Cortland in Bay Shore is still going strong, once again proving it is one of Long Island’s most unique establishments.

As of today (Nov. 1, 2012), many people in Nassau and Suffolk counties are sitting in the dark. No lights, no TV, no Internet, no phones; many streetlights and traffic signals still not working. Crucially important inconveniences aside, those who really relish getting out of the house at night or after work have found recent frustration as so many bars, restaurants; clubs and lounges are shut and powered down. A select few have dodged the blackouts and are open as usual, but many more simply cannot function without electricity to keep the drinks cool, the food hot and the music playing.

Then again, while other hangouts are having their business hours dictated by wattage amounts, the resourceful crew at The Cortland is beating the system – for neither the ownership nor the clientele seems to feel electricity is all that important toward having a good time.

“We were sitting at home, and we were, like, let’s just go up there and open,” tells Ben Gulinello, who, along with brother Bobby owns The Cortland. The East Islip-born siblings first opened the bar at the end of 2010, and ever since have held some of the most inventive promotions found anywhere. Past parties include a “drink and draw,” where patrons painted on canvas while enjoying the bar’s selection of rare craft beers; another was the transformation of the pub into a “speakeasy” , with drinks served in teacups and with two 1920s-era cars parked in front. There are also monthly art shows, and every Thursday, the tavern’s signature “Rock-Paper-Scissors” tournament continues to pack the room.

After Hurricane Sandy knocked out the power to much of Bay Shore on Oct. 29, The Cortland ended up stuck in the same predicament of many spots-- but, as the Gulinello brothers are wont to do, they came up with a special idea. A few small candles placed in glasses, a couple of tea lights laid along the tap mantle, and the front door ajar to let passersby know they may drop in; that was the recipe Ben and Bobby decided upon (and a Facebook mention too). “We figure, if you’re OK with room temperature beer, then come on down,” Ben adds. However, before thinking that without the house system there won’t be tunes -- know that an extension cord has been stretched around the side from the one working outlet to provide enough juice for an amplifier – and as of the midnight between Halloween and November, a duo of musicians were stationed in the front window, vacillating between playing random songs and yelled-out requests.

Truth told, this is the second experience The Cortland has had with this method of “acoustic hospitality,” as a storm also blacked-out the business in 2011; the first time this plan of action was instituted (these gatherings are appropriately called “Power Failure Parties”). It worked then, and, as Mr. Gulinello explained concerning this “current” electric-free episode’s success,” We can’t believe it…so many people have been coming down, and we have no power, and nobody cares!”

Once again, The Cortland’s personality, loyal customer base and ingenuity have combined to continue the notion that this may be Long Island’s coolest bar.

The Cortland: 27 W. Main St., Bay Shore, 631-206-2220,


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