Thursday, September 28, 2023

A farewell to Big Lee and the Hard Swallow

Photos and reporting by Stacie Joy 

The Hard Swallow is going out in Coney Island style this weekend. 

The neighborhood bar at 140 First Ave. between St. Mark's Place and Ninth Street closes after service on Saturday night.

This comes two-plus months after the sudden passing of co-owner Leroy "Big Lee" Lloyd, who was 51. 

Maria "Sasha" Lloyd, his wife and business partner, has planned a closing-night party on Saturday — which also happens to be close to Lee's birthday — featuring regulars from the Coney Island Circus Sideshow. (Big Lee grew up in Coney Island.)
"Anyone who feels connected to the bar and Big Lee is invited to come here on Saturday," said Sasha, a lifelong neighborhood resident. "Lee didn't want tears; he wanted a celebration."
She has also hired a videographer to record testimonials about Big Lee as a keepsake for her two sons, Nicholas and Jacob. (People who can't make the event can record a video and post it on social media with the hashtag #ThankYouBigLee, and those will be included in the keepsake for the family, she said.)

I recently stopped by the bar and met (from the left) bar manager Audreana "Storm" Janelle, bartender Socks Markley, Sasha and bartender Caitlyn "Aurora" Milkman
While the Hard Swallow is closing, Sasha's business partner will be keeping the space and eventually opening a new bar after going through the liquor license process.
As for Sasha, she decided to make a fresh start and will be moving to Hawaii next month, a plan put into effect while Big Lee was still alive. 

Sasha said she is having difficulty mourning and grieving while still in the same apartment and bar. She and Big Lee had the Hard Swallow for over eight years; it was their whole life, she said.


Anonymous said...

RIP Big Lee. The times we would talk you were so kind and awesome to me. I’m sorry about all of this and I wish Sasha a wonderful new life 🖤

Anonymous said...

RIP Lee. Good luck in Hawaii Sascha.🍀🙏

Annie said...

Tough stuff. I wish Sasha all the best.

Anonymous said...

I'm absolutely gutted, my favorite bar run by amazing people. Big Lee, you were an absolute gentleman and you will be missed...