Aabir Das still has a lot to learn behind the bar.

"I've never worked in the industry," said Das, the owner of the bar Keats in Midtown East.

But that did not stop him from saving his favorite neighborhood bar when it was in danger of closing this winter. He's a lawyer with the Legal Aid Society by day and now also the owner of Keats.

What You Need To Know

  • Aabir Das has been a loyal patron of Keats in Midtown East for a decade

  • The bar was struggling through the pandemic due to COVID-19 restrictions

  • He used his life savings to buy the bar
  • Das says the bar's family-like atmosphere is why he took it over

"I was kind of in a position where the old owners were not able to keep it anymore so I was able to move things around and pick it up. For me, it was just saving something that I cherish,” Das said. "I know a lot of the ins and outs, the vibe, the feel of it, so the learning curve has been a lot easier."

In the pandemic, the bar stayed open for takeout, but it wasn’t able to survive on that alone. He knew he had to act fast to keep it in business.

"Once we knew it wasn't going to pass through the second lockdown it was either we had to move on it or someone else would pick it up," Das said. “It was more of a process like, ‘OK, we can make this happen, let's go for it.’”

Das said he's met so many close friends over the years just sitting at Keats and that the family atmosphere drew him to buy it.

"We literally are not a bar where people just come and drink. We are literally a family, we have everyone's cell phone," Das said.

The city’s Department of Small Business Services reports that 4,000 businesses utilized grants, loans and other services available throughout the pandemic. For some businesses, these services alone have helped, but for others like Keats, they had to get creative. 

Das used his life savings to keep the bar open.

"There were some things that were non-liquid that I made liquid," Das said.

 Since he became the official owner of the bar, Das said it's been a whirlwind.

"I have not had time to sit and process and all that, but at some point I'm sure I'll sit down and be like, ‘Oh, OK,’” Das said.

And yet, the packed bar and karaoke nights make it all worth it, according to Das.