For more than two decades, Vivienne’s has been a staple in Pelham Bay. But at the end of the month, the watering hole is closing its doors for good.
Vivienne Hansen, 71, a lifelong Pelham Bay resident, opened the bar at 3044 Westchester Ave. 21 years ago and has cherished every moment as the proprietor. She has hosted all types of parties ranging from sweet sixteens to bridal showers and become a “mom” to many customers.
Over the years her patrons have become family and she said it has been very hard to tell them the sad news.
“I am very proud of what I have accomplished,” Hansen said to the Bronx Times. “We had a lot of fun and a lot of tears. I really had a good run. I had a lot of good people who worked for me.”
Hansen spent several years as a bartender working at various places on Tremont, Pennyfield and Waterbury Avenues. She loved interacting with people and being in her community.
Running a business had never crossed her mind while bartending. But everything changed when she went to the old Greek bar located at what is now Vivienne’s and was informed that the owner was selling the space.
Hansen then took a leap of faith and seized the opportunity.
“I said it would be nice to own a bar,” Hansen recalled.
The transition to her new career took time. As a bartender she made drinks and took care of the customers, but as an owner she now had to deal with vendors, ordering food and paying bills, which became a 24/7 job.
However, Hansen quickly adjusted and fell in love with it.
“It’s an interesting life. I used to tell everybody I don’t know if it was my best mistake or worst mistake,” she said. “A lot of my customers became family. They were here every day.”
Not only was it a place people came to for drinks, but Hansen also held countless charity events at her eatery. The bar held food, toy and clothing drives and Hansen volunteered at Calvary Hospital.
She noted that if there was a reason to have a party, the bar hosted one.
“You just make so many memories with the people we met,” she said.
Things took a turn for the worst in the spring right before COVID-19 arrived. It was then when her landlord said he wanted to double the rent or have her out by June.
Hansen didn’t think he was serious, but then the pandemic showed up and she was shuttered until July. Those four months were the hardest in her tenure as owner.
Even when she reopened, the bar only had room for a few small tables outside. As people could not drink without being served food, she and her daughter Tammi, who ran the bar with her, provided hot dogs, pretzels and other snacks.
The summer months did not bring in much revenue and Hansen did not receive any financial assistance from the city either. The landlord asked for rent in July, August and September but that was not feasible.
“How could he get rent if I had to pay rent for my house,” she stressed.
Finally, last week he told her she had to be out by the end of the month.
“I didn’t think he would go through with it,” she said. “I never thought it would happen. I’m going to be sorry to see it go.”