Raccoon Times: Rockaway’s Nightlife: Grooving with Grove at Connolly’s

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 On a hot summer day in Rockaway, who doesn't like grabbing a delicious frozen drink while listening to live music? On Friday, July 2, local pub Connolly’s (155 Beach 95th Street) was just the spot to do that, with tunes played by Justine Grove.

Originally from Jamaica, Queens, Grove loves to come out to Rockaway to perform. “I come to Rockaway all the time. This is my place, the beach and just everything about it,” Grove said. “I love the people here.” The event started around 4pm and was a perfect way to kick off July 4th weekend.

I walked down the stairs into Connolly's bar and if you’ve done that on a hot summer afternoon, you know that great feeling when the A/C hits you and you see that frozen machine as you enter. Justine was getting ready to hit the stage and everyone was all ears. She sings while playing her acoustic guitar and covers songs from all different singers and genres, like “Watermelon Sugar” by Harry Styles. She also plays her own originals and even has her own EP. When she plays in Rockaway, Jim Baldwin, who met Groves during an open mic night joins her on his bongo. The two make quite the duo. Grove might look familiar, as she was an American Idol contestant back in 2019 and  also recently released a music video for her new single "That Night".  Grove was inspired by alternative bands like Paramore and Blink 182 but her music also has some R&B and folk influences.

The bar was full for a Friday evening as people were taking in the music. Regulars like Eddie Velez, from Jamaica, was happy to be out and about again, now that things are slowly getting back to normal. “I’m having a fantastic time tonight, the live music and the drinks are great," Velez said while sipping on his piña colada. “It’s nice that things are opening back up, especially for the Fourth of July weekend.” Connolly’s is known for their frozen piña coladas and frozen pink lemonade drinks which did not disappoint. (I recommend getting a floater or a sinker with it for an extra kick!) I got a piña colada with a Captain Morgan floater, a perfect treat to cool off and start the weekend right.

The bartender was keeping busy as people were ordering round after round. As the evening went on, more people came to check out the live music. “I came here just to see Justine,” Rockaway local Melanie Homesy said. “I used to see her play on the boardwalk and when I saw she was playing here, I knew I had to go.” Grove’s vocals carry, filling the whole bar with her soulful voice. Some people even got up to dance, grooving to the music.

This wasn’t Grove’s first time playing at Connolly’s as she use to attend and perform at the Open Mic nights pre-Covid. She was happy to be back playing for the crowd. Music is an ongoing passion for her, and she hopes to continue her music journey throughout her life. “I love music, this is all that I do,” Grove said. “Anytime or anywhere there is a show, I’m happy to play.”

Connolly’s was grateful to be able to host live music again and have Grove take the stage in the elevated booth. “I’m very happy with the music, Justine is great,” Connolly’s Manager Lisa Franklin said.  “Having live music is something we want to continue doing.”

This summer could be your last chance. As Connolly’s is still up for sale, the future of the historic spot could look different under new owners. If you want to check out any of Connolly’s upcoming events, you can follow their Instagram page @connollysbar.

To follow Grove’s music and events, check out her Instagram Page @justinegrovemusic. She’ll be back on the boardwalk at Beach 97th for the Rockaway Summer Fest on Friday, July 16 at 5:45 p.m. You can also find her music on YouTube and platforms like Spotify and Apple Music.

By Nicole Taylor-Lang

 

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