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After tragedy, Bostonians gather 'where everybody knows your name'

Boston locals congregated at neighborhood hangout Thorntons in the wake of the Boston Marathon tragedy.
Boston locals congregated at neighborhood hangout Thorntons in the wake of the Boston Marathon tragedy.Courtesy Peg Prentice

By Grace Bello, NBC News contributor

After Monday's bombings near the Boston Marathon's finish line, part of Boylston Street in the city's Back Bay remained cordoned off from pedestrians and traffic. But outside the crime scene perimeter, while some restaurants saw cancellation after cancellation, other eateries and bars kept their doors opened their doors Tuesday, providing hospitality and respite, and donating part of their profits to a local charity.

At Cafeteria on Newbury Street only a couple of blocks away from where the second explosion took place, patrons--many of whom were from out of town--stopped by for a bite to eat. "Business is as usual for us," Demetri Tsolakis, director of operations at Cafeteria, told NBC News. In fact, Tuesday was even "a little busier." He said that the restaurant sees "more and more tourists every year" and that these international visitors, often from Canada or Europe, were out "enjoying the day" rather than huddling indoors.

"People are still scared," said Tsolakis. "But it has united people. You can tell that everyone is feeling for Boston."

Cafeteria and more than 20 other restaurants donated a portion of Tuesday night's proceeds to the Greg Hill Foundation to benefit victims of Monday’s unfortunate events. Elsehwere, strangers and a pizza shop fed Boston's first responders and victims.

Manager Moulay Guessous works at Scoozi, also on Newbury Street, "right behind where the tragedy happened." As a result, business slumped slightly, though "we were expecting even less, to tell you the truth," he said. Of those who did dine in, Guessous said, "Everyone is trying to be here on a positive note and support businesses in the best way possible."

He pointed out, though, that among the diverse clientele of tourists, college students, and locals, the mood had changed.

"There are emotional scars. People are sad for all the people who lost their lives,” he said. “But everyone in our staff has been very helpful. Some have already donated blood." Guessous and his team are looking for other ways to help out. "We saw New York go through it and pull together. And I think we'll do just as well in Boston and put our city back right where it belongs."

At the neighborhood fixture Thornton's Fenway Grill, Marty Thornton felt less upbeat. His crowd consists mainly of locals with close ties to the city and to the marathoners. When he kept his establishment open on Monday night after the tragedy, the place was busier than usual.

"We're a neighborhood bar, and a lot of people needed somewhere to go," said Thornton.

Besides drinks, the bar offered its electrical outlets to people who needed to charge their phones after a day of busily trying to call missing loved ones while the cellphone networks in the area were overwhelmed. It was also a place where customers could gather and console each other.

"A lot of people were still in shock," said Marty. "No one wants to sit home when something like that happens." As patrons called it a night, "They thanked me for being open," he said. "They wanted to get together with their friends. It was a relief for people."

On Tuesday, some establishments including Mexican eatery Boloco and Italian restaurant Vapiano even offered free food and drink to emergency responders.

At one of Boston's most famous bars, Cheers, manager Dennis Pinto said the restaurant was more crowded than usual. He said, "The marathon is one of our busiest days of the year. We get all the 'blue and yellow jackets,'" people wearing the official jackets of the 2013 Boston Marathon. "Partly because we're so close to where it happened, and those restaurants are closed, people came here."