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Gay couple wins fun Sunnyside reception

Wedding bells will not be ringing for New York’s same-sex couples until July 24, but a pair of Sunnyside brides-to-be already know where they are going to have their reception for free.

Molly Blooms, an Irish Victorian-style pub at 43-13 Queens Blvd. in Sunnyside, held a raffle open only to same-sex couples last week for a wedding reception at the pub for no cost. The winners were Sunnysiders Janice Velten, a mail carrier, and Patrice Pfirmann, a civilian worker for the NYPD. Velten and Pfirmann have been together for 24 years.

“I feel excited,” Velten said. “I can’t believe we won.”

Ciaran Staunton, the owner of Molly Blooms, said about 50 couples entered the contest during a 10-day period, many of them from Sunnyside and Jackson Heights but some from as far away as Long Island. Before he drew the winning couple’s name July 13, he said he had no idea if the they would be in the bar, but Velten and Pfirmann were present. They hugged and received many congratulations from patrons for their good luck. The Irish band playing at the bar dedicated the next song it played to them.

“It’s wonderful,” Pfirmann said. “Ciaran is a wonderful man. I can’t believe how generous he is.”

Staunton said he held the contest because he was delighted that same-sex couples could now enjoy the same rights as all other New Yorkers and said the legislation, which the state Senate passed June 24, would have a positive effect on the lives of thousands of New Yorkers.

“This is my way of saying, ‘Let’s all celebrate it,’” Staunton said.

Queens Borough Hall will begin offering same-sex marriage licenses in accordance with the law Sunday at 8:30 a.m to 4:30 p.m. For the rest of the week, the office will be open for an extra two hours, closing at 6:30 p.m.

Pfirmann said she and Velten have not set a date for their wedding yet, but Staunton said when they do the prize package will include a 75-person, three-hour reception with an open bar and a photographer.

“We work with the couple who won and what date they want,” Staunton said.

Whenever they hold the wedding and reception, Pfirmann said one thing she knows is that it will be a Sunnyside affair. She said guests at the wedding will include family, co-workers and neighbors who live in Sunnyside.

“They’ve always been accepting of us as a couple,” Pfirmann said of the neighborhood.

Velten said she will enjoy having all of the nice people who live in her neighborhood at a reception close to where she lives.

“I can walk home,” Velten said.

Reach reporter Rebecca Henely by e-mail at rhenely@cnglocal.com or by phone at 718-260-4564.

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