(Photo: Jaime Cone)

(Photo: Jaime Cone)

Three days after an apparent gas explosion took down three buildings in the East Village, residents are finally being allowed to return to evacuated buildings on Second Avenue. The number of vacate orders in the area fell from 141 residential units yesterday to just 48 today. But at 41-43 East 7th Street, just around the corner from where the blast occurred, a trio of beloved bars remain shuttered, with their owners anxiously awaiting permission to reopen.

Over the weekend, Gary Gillis, proprietor of Standings and Burp Castle, and Jimmy Carbone, of Jimmy’s No. 43, got a quick peak at the inside of their bars in the building adjacent to the collapsed 119 Second Avenue. There didn’t appear to be substantial damage, but with debris still being excavated from the adjacent lot, they still haven’t been allowed to welcome customers.

“We’re ready to go and can’t wait to start pouring beers,” said Carbone, who was in his basement-level bar when the explosion occurred. He wanted to keep Jimmy’s open all day Thursday (he says he feels horrible he hasn’t been able to help out more), but was forced to evacuate. The gastropub’s kitchen is located just 10 feet of so away from the basement where the explosion occurred, but there appeared to be only flood damage. “We’re in pretty good shape. We just need to get a light cleaning,” Carbone said, adding that it’s amazing there wasn’t more destruction given that debris went flying just inches from their door. The bar’s awning was ripped, but it was due for a replacement anyway, Carbone said.

Gillis, who owns the two bars above Jimmy’s, said he was only able to go into the building for about five minutes per bar with a police escort, but from what he could tell there was only dust on the floor and a smoky smell, no visible water damage. “I was kind of surprised given our proximity to the disaster site,” Gillis said. “The FDNY did a hell of a job containing the fire and keeping it away from the bars.” Both he and Carbone cited the unusual two-foot gap between their building and 119 Second Avenue as the main reason there wasn’t more damage to their building.

The experience reminded Carbone how fragile New York’s small businesses can be. “All the places that went down, they were all small businesses,” he said. “When you’re a small business, you’re always in fear of something happening.” He said he knows firsthand how local shops struggled to recuperate in the wake of disasters like Hurricane Sandy or 9/11, and anticipates unforeseen costs when he reopens.

On Facebook, friends, neighbors and colleagues like Rhonda Kave of Roni-Sue Chocolates voiced support for Carbone and asked others to buy gift cards. He estimates he’s sold 20 to 30 over the past few days, mostly to regulars and other acquaintances. The cards can be redeemed when Jimmy’s starts pouring its impressive selection of craft beers again, which Carbone said could be as early as Tuesday night.

Earlier today, the city’s inter-agency update on recovery efforts said that repair work had begun on 41-43 East 7th Street, which houses the three bars.

Businesses along Second Avenue, between East 7th and St. Marks, were allowed to reoccupy their buildings today, though a vacate order remains in place for 125 Second Avenue, which was badly burned during Thursday’s seven-alarm blaze. (An online fundraiser for the owner of Enz’s, at that address, has raised over $7,000.) A call to Paul’s Da Burger Joint confirmed that the diner had reopened for delivery and pickups; dine-in service will return when the block reopens to pedestrian traffic.

At 4:15 p.m., NYU announced that it had reopened its 7th Street Residence Hall, across the street from Standings, Burp Castle and Jimmy’s. Residents were told they’d have to present their NYU ID cards to police officers and are not being permitted guests.

As of this morning, approximately 46 trailer loads, or about 3,000 tons, of debris — about half of the total on site — had been sifted through and removed.