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Hoist One Where Women Sling the Drinks, Own the Joint: Review

Pegu Club
Audrey Saunders, owner of Pegu Club. Saunders opened the bar on West Houston street in 2005. Photographer: Alexo Wandael/Pegu Club via Bloomberg

Today around the world, a whole lot of women will be marching to note the 100th anniversary of International Women’s Day. After all that exercise, where better to celebrate than at a bar with one of us in charge?

It’s a national holiday in some countries, including China, and Russia where men are known to give random women chocolates and even bottles of vodka.

Throughout the month, plenty of Serious Events will chart the progress of women since the first IWD in 1911. It’s not all serious business, though. In New York, women are slinging drinks, adeptly dispensing with boozed-up patrons and negotiating liquor contracts at establishments they own.

My search for bars run by women yielded both high-profile and lesser known operations, even as I found fewer than I’d hoped. In fact, Audrey Saunders, owner of Pegu Club, warned me it could be like “searching for a needle in a haystack.”

A couple of the spots I visited have some male partners. But all have women running things.

Luxury Lounge

Pegu Club feels like the kind of place where you would wear a polka-dotted dress from the J. Peterman catalog on a hot summer night. Saunders has created a long, dark cool room that is at once refined and welcoming with banquettes along one wall and more private seating along the other.

I like people-watching from the bar while drinking a Pegu Club Cocktail -- London dry gin, bitters, lime juice and orange curacao ($13), and watching the bartenders shake and stir.

The menu includes pairings like the Fitty-Fitty martini ($13) with trout deviled eggs ($9).

Being a woman, says Saunders, 48, helped her because, “Early in, I understood that in order to gain acceptance, I had to be twice as good.”

Pegu Club is at 77 W. Houston Street near W. Broadway; +1-212-473-7348.

Irish Pub

Glenda Sansone, nee McGovern, opened Slane just before St. Patrick’s Day in 2005. The pub is named for her hometown in County Meath, Ireland, site of Slane Castle and, since 1981, the Slane rock concert. Photos of Bono and the Red Hot Chili Peppers playing for some 80,000 fans hang in the bar.

The basic pub grub is good, Padraigh Connolly is a great bartender and there’s live music Sunday through Thursday nights from 9 to midnight.

For five years on Tuesdays, acoustic duo Martin & Craig have been playing their toe-tapping original music and covers. I’m hoping they’ll play “Delta Dawn” tonight.

When the place gets packed, Sansone thinks being a woman “works as an advantage in an alcoholic atmosphere,” to keep things running smoothly.

Sansone, 36, is hoping to open another spot while juggling duties as a wife and new mother.

Slane Public House is at 102 MacDougal Street in Greenwich Village; +1-212-505-0079.

Neighborhood Hang

At the northern end of Alphabet City sits a non-descript barroom called Heathers. DJ’s spin records most nights, artsy folks come and go and ginger-infused rum or bourbon ($8) is served along with gluten-free beers ($6).

Owner Heather Millstone, 36, who opened Heathers in late 2005, says music is very important to her and her clientele. She has soundproofed the room and calls her establishment “respectful,” though the bar is embroiled in a battle with neighbors over noise.

The sole owner, she says many of her staff feel to her like partners; she respects their input and service.

This Tuesday, Heathers is hosting a gluten-free meet-up and book release party for Sloane Miller, known as Allergic Girl, from 5:30 to 9.

Heathers is at 506 E. 13th Street, between Avenues A and B; +1-212-254-0979.

Down By the Riverside

Lisa Cannistraci opened Henrietta Hudson Bar and Girl on Halloween 1991, “back when Hudson Street had no stop signs or lights,” she says. “Greenwich and Washington Streets were industrial and half an hour would pass and no one would walk by.”

Cannistraci has always done deals in person. That’s one of her keys to good business, along with not having a big ego and hiring people who like who they are.

She says Lisa Graziano, the bar’s manager, “is the best partner anyone could ever have.”

The lesbian bar has a pole for dancing on, a cage for dancing in and a pool table that is removed in June during Gay Pride Month to make more space for international visitors.

DJ’s supply the music Wednesday through Saturday, the crowd is heavily female (there’s a strict policy at the door of two women to every man) and a simple rule prevails: Be polite.

Throughout March, Henrietta Hudson will salute the women of the world with “Superwoman,” a cocktail made from Svedka clementine vodka and lychee liqueur.

On Tuesday, karaoke night will pay homage to inspiring female singers like Helen Reddy, in an event called “Sing Out Sister.”

Henrietta Hudson is at 438 Hudson Street; +1-212-924-3347.

(Catherine Smith writes for Muse, the arts and culture section of Bloomberg News. The opinions expressed are her own.)

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