Entertainment

Beloved NYC bar owner Molly Fitch dead at 51

Molly Fitch, the owner of the East Village institution the International Bar, has died. She was 51.

A neighborhood celebrity and veteran bartender, Fitch resurrected International Bar — a 53-year-old dive now in its third location — in 2008, three years after its original St. Marks Place address was shuttered. A New York City bartender for 27 years, Fitch also owned Coal Yard, a similarly beloved dive with a stalwart cast of regulars and beer-and-a-shot deals.

A Lower East Side celebrity, Fitch is remembered for embodying the good times and grit of the old-school institutions she ran.

“She knew everybody and was all in all the time, for good food, good wine and good company. Every place she went felt like a family,” International bartender Sawyer Mitchell told The Post.

Although most customers only saw her at or behind the bar, Fitch was actually “a renaissance woman,” according to Mitchell. In addition to slinging drinks for decades, she played in a band, was a lifelong record collector, fixed and flipped upscale guitars and resold amps and rare books.

“She would do this thing that would be both infuriating and lead to the best conversations, where she would stop someone in the middle of the group and say ‘Tell us a story.’ The results could be pretty incredible,” recalled Mitchell of Fitch.
Courtesy of International Bar

A Maine native of Irish and Acadian descent, Fitch loved the bar’s jukebox and her cat Michelle. She was a strong believer that everyone’s fourth drink should be free.

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“Her father always told her that it wasn’t about how much you make: You were successful by how many mouths you fed and jobs you created,” said Brett Selmont, a friend of Fitch’s who also worked for her on and off over the years. “She lived that way, and she loved life, and loved people and bringing them together regardless of their differences.”

And then there were the stories.

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molly fitch obit international bar
From left, Billy the Artist, Mike Lopez and Craig Collins at International on May 3.
Stephen Yang
molly fitch obit international bar
International Bar patrons on May 3, 2021, the day COVID restrictions on drinking at the bar were lifted.
Stephen Yang
molly fitch obit international bar
International Bar patrons on May 3, 2021, the day COVID restrictions on drinking at the bar were lifted.
Stephen Yang

“I feel like she lived 17 different lives worth of stories,” said Mitchell. “I always wanted someone to record them all, but she would never do it.”

Despite her time on Earth cut short, Fitch “had more life than most people have in the same amount of time. She changed a lot of people’s lives,” said International bartender Jen Murphy. “Last year, she pulled us through. She somehow got us all in a better place before she left us.”

molly fitch obit international bar
Fitch was a local legend in her own time.
Courtesy of International Bar

Fitch’s staunch loyalty often felt of another era, a character trait from a bygone New York where bars like hers, full of city newcomers getting sloshed alongside colorful, decades-long customers, were not such rarities.

“She was an embodiment of the old East Village, a pre-commercialized downtown New York where small businesses and punk rockers and individuals could make it,” former bouncer and bar manager David O’Donnell told The Post.

“The way the neighborhood had changed, we were like, ‘Jeez, I wish we could open a place that we would feel good about going into,’” Fitch told the New York Press in 2014 of what inspired her to maintain bars where “it doesn’t matter how old you are, what you do for work or what you like to talk about.”

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molly fitch obit international bar
Fitch and friends, out to dinner.
Courtesy of International Bar
molly fitch obit international bar
"She was a warrior, a fighter," former Coal Yard bouncer Ariel Eistenstadt told The Post. "She was a very strong person."
Courtesy of International Bar

“We’re a bit worn in,” she humbly described International to The Post in 2019, “like an old pair of comfortable sneakers.”

International remains open “seven days a week at regular hours,” according to an Instagram post by the bar. “Please give our team the love we need to continue to serve the East Village community with Molly’s legacy.”

Artmotion U.S.A

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