Public outcry allows Madrina’s to reopen

Madrina's
Madrina's

Editor’s Note

Mainstreet Daily News, in a collaboration with Noel Leroux, founder of Gainesville Downtown, is spotlighting downtown businesses to learn how each one is coping with the ever-evolving COVID-19 situation. 

In less than three years, Madrina’s has established itself as the classiest go-to bar for craft cocktails in downtown Gainesville. Now all of the sudden it’s known as the classiest bar for cocktails to-go. Instead of a crowded happy hour, owner T.J. Palmieri now welcomes one customer at a time to Madrina’s, 9 W. University Ave.

“I miss the bar being a bar,” Palmieri told gainesvilledowntown.com on Friday evening. “I didn’t sign up to do retail. It’s not my cup of tea.”

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But with the arrival of COVID-19, Palmieri has shifted from being a bartender to package-store clerk, selling beer, wine, spirits, cocktails and, yes, even toilet paper — for $1 a roll!

Madrina’s opened Saturday and Easter Sunday from 2-8 p.m., but starting Tuesday the hours will switch to 4-9 p.m. daily except Monday, when the bar is closed. Madrina’s is the only actual downtown bar still selling alcoholic beverages exclusively. In fact, it had been shut down until WCJB TV20 News aired a report about Madrina’s that created some noise and a public outcry. Officials quickly had a change of heart and allowed Madrina’s to reopen.

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“Selling cocktails to-go was vital for us,” Palmieri said. “It’s really the only thing we can do to pay our bills. For us, it was life or death.”

He wants to give credit where credit is due.

“The entire downtown Gainesville community rallied together, making phone calls and sending emails. Otherwise we wouldn’t be open,” Palmieri added.

Instead of mixing drinks individually like the old days, Palmieri and his staff now make large batches of cocktails using an emulsion blender. They then fill small plastic bottles with the cocktails and seal them with tamper-proof caps before sanitizing the outside of the bottle. Specialty cocktails include the Guava the Hutt (vodka, guava, Aperol, lime and vanilla) and the Robert Rodriguez (tequila, passion fruit, lime, jalapeño and basil) as well as the Classic Daiquiri.

“The menu changes every couple of days depending on what sells out,” Palmieri said. “Things are still a bit wonky right now.”

Palmieri has retained three employees but had to let six others go.

“I really appreciate all the people who are spending their money here and supporting us,” he said. “It’s been nice to see Gainesville come together and stick up for local businesses.” 

About the Author

Noel Leroux is the publisher of gainesvilledowntown.com, a website dedicated to covering all things downtown. His mission is to inform, entertain and engage readers with compelling articles about arts, entertainment, and the foodie scene in Gainesville.

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