by Sue Giustino
On Saturday December 30th, the bar was packed with friends of Puck– all there to wish him well and enjoy his last night behind the bar at the Montauket. After 38 years, Steve Dolan, or Puck as everyone knows him, retired as head bartender. Although he doesn’t have any immediate retirement plans, he’s ready to enjoy some free time golfing and relaxing.
But, not so fast… It seems the Friends of Erin have selected him to be the 62nd Montauk Friends of Erin St. Patrick’s Day Parade Grand Marshal!
About a week and a half after his last night at the Montauket, I had a chance to speak with him about both grand events. On the subject of his retirement, he said that when he returns from his annual winter visit to Florida, he’ll figure out what he’ll do with his time; maybe something at the golf course. Right now, he’s adjusting to his new relaxed schedule “I don’t even know what day it is anymore.” He said, a sure sign of a retiree. He also mentioned that for about six months his shoulder had been bothering him and now, one week in, it’s not hurting any longer. Already retirement agrees with him.
In 1975 Puck began working for Steve and Frank’s grandfather [Eddie] and uncle [Rudy] at their place, Rudy’s Barge on the water in New Rochelle. In 1982, Eddie went to Montauk to take over the Montauket after the passing of his brother [who around 1958 had taken a trip to Montauk looking to buy a fishing cottage, got drunk, and bought the Montauket].
So, in December of 1985, needing someone he knew and trusted, Eddie asked Puck to move to Montauk to be his bartender. Puck’s response was “I’d love to.” Despite the advice of friends who thought he was crazy- believing that he wouldn’t make any money because it was so quiet in the winter- he made the move. He remembers that during his first shift from 5-7:30pm on a December evening, he made just $12. Thankfully, he wasn’t disheartened enough to give up and it progressively got better.
Puck fondly remembers how Eddie always told him to “Focus on the Locals.” Which is what he did and they still do today. “Take care of them as much as possible” Eddie told him, “They pay the light bill.” Throughout our conversation, Puck’s admiration for the family he’s worked for, for over 40 years, is obvious. “I can’t say enough about the family. From the grandfather to the grandkids, they’ve always taken care of me.” And of his only employer for his entire adult life he said, “They took care of me and I tried my best to take care of them with the business.”
It’s obvious the respect goes both ways, the Montauket Family commented on both of his accomplishments, “Puck has been a part of the Montauket family for the past 45 years. The Montauket would not be where it is if not for his loyalty and friendship. We wish him all the best on his day for the parade and can’t wait to celebrate with him.” –
Puck’s relationship with the family goes way back. Not only did he grow up with Steve and Frank’s Dad, Frank Puglia, but years back their grandmother and Pucks father had been roller-skating dancing partners. He says that when he met Eddie’s wife and she found out he was Steve Dolan’s son, it sealed the relationship. Puck believes that connection is basically how he got the job at Ruddy’s. As for this generation, Puck has known Steve, Frank, and Elise since they were babies. After Eddie took over, his daughter Marilyn [Steve, Frank and Elise’s mom] and her husband Pat, had also moved to Montauk to help out at the Montauket.
When speaking about his experience over such a long span behind the bar, he said. “It’s always been a busy bar, but we used to have two bartenders, now there’s six. I’ve served three generations of Montauk. I’ve made a lot of friends and will miss it.”
“I’m flabbergasted that they asked me.” Was his response when I asked Puck how he felt about becoming the 62nd Grand Marshal. He admitted that when he decided to retire, somewhere in the back of his mind he thought that maybe the ‘Friends’ would ask him, since he was retiring. “And sure enough, they did. It’s kind of ironic that it actually happened.” Then he added, “It’s the cherry on top of my retirement.”
The only son of Steve and Margaret Dolan, Puck grew up in New Rochelle. His dad worked for Guiness so he’s no stranger to the beverage industry. One may wonder where the nickname Puck came from. Well, I asked that question and at first, I was a bit surprised by the answer. When he was sixteen, he was sitting on a stump with smoke from his pipe billowing around his head, a friend said, ‘You look like Puck from A Midsummers Night’s Dream.’ From then on, Steve Dolan became known as Puck.
Doing my research, the connection became obvious. In the Shakespearean Play, Puck, or Robin Goodfellow, is a character based on the Puck of English mythology and the púca of Celtic mythology. The character description goes like this, ‘Puck becomes the catalyst for most of the drama and the comedy, a mischievous fairy, sprite, or jester.’ I’m seeing a slight resemblance. You?
When he first started at the Montauket, Puck rented a place in Springs. Two years later, with his father retired and dealing with some health issues, his parents decided to move out and join him on the east end. They bought a house together, his dad knowing that Puck would care for his mother when needed.
Puck still lives in that house, and his son Steven and his wife Caitlin live a few blocks away. Presently Steven works at Bostwicks Chowder House, and they have two sons. Puck is a proud grandfather to Henry, 6 years old, and Duke who’s 3 years old. He’s also blessed with two step daughters, Donna and Denise, and a step-granddaughter Samantha who is a student at Penn State.
About his dad, Puck’s son Steven commented, “I’d like to thank my dad for teaching me everything I know about bartending. I had the pleasure of being my father’s barback for a few seasons at the Montauket. Which quickly turned into me making drinks. I’d call out a drink ordered from a customer and my father would yell out to me the ingredients, and basically that’s how I learned most drink recipes. He also taught me bar etiquette like don’t wave money or whistle at bartenders. And how tipping is important, and to tip big. Now I have about 20 years behind the bar myself as a career bartender. I’m very happy to have learned from the best, a legend, my father Puck. Now that he’s retired, his two grandsons Duke and Henry are looking forward to having GrandPuck around on weekends.” Then added, “Congratulations Dad, on becoming Grand Marshal, it’s a huge Montauk Honor, it’s well deserved!”
It may be hard to envision, but Puck with his witty, quick come-backs and a no-nonsense approach to bartending, is also a babysitter. He told me a story about his son being out one evening and meeting a friend who asked him where the kids were. Steven commented that his dad was babysitting. The reply went something like, ‘Puck, he can watch kids?’ And like father, like son, Steven responded with, ‘Well, he’s been watching you assholes all these years.’
Another side of Puck that may not be so obvious is that, at times, he can get quite emotional. When we were talking about the parade, he said that he was sure he’d tear up as they make the turn onto Main Street and passed Shagwong. “Looking down the street, it’s always amazing to see all of those people, it will be quite exciting and emotional. I get emotional easily, I’m not that tough guy I think I am.”
Working nights, catching up on sleep and getting ready again to go back to work left him little time to get involved in other activities. In addition to bartending Eddie would hire him to work around the hotel and bar making repairs, painting, or whatever was needed. So other than volunteering as Santa for a Friends of Erin event at the gazebo in town for three or four years, and picking the winner of the Superbowl raffle, (two events they used to run) he didn’t have time for much else- except maybe a round or two of golf now and then.
As he reflected on his relationship with the Friends of Erin and past FOE presidents and Grand Marshals, he said, “Many of them were my customers.” Adding, “I enjoyed attending the Grand Marshal luncheons and am looking forward to getting roasted.”
Well Puck, I’m sure there are many of your friends and customers who look forward to that roast as well. Good luck, and enjoy the ride!
Be sure to join in the 2024 festivities as The Montauk Friends of Erin honor Steve ‘Puck’ Dolan for the Grand Marshal Luncheon on Friday March 22nd, the Saturday night Cocktail Party, and of course the Parade through town on Sunday March 24th.