Whenever a rent hike threatened to shut its doors once and for all, who owns this little-known gem got creative.
Queen Victoria’s crowning, Darwin’s Theory of Evolution, the Civil War … most of these things happened after Neir’s Tavern opened. The Woodhaven Queens institution (initially referred to as the oddly hipster-sounding “Blue Pump Room”) first pilfered pilsners to parched peeps in 1829.
Neir’s’ Honduran mahogany bar top, ancient chandelier, dusty gas lamps and uneven tin ceilings are tip-offs that place is actually a booze history buff’s Shangri-La. First-time patrons can’t possibly fathom how this, among the oldest continuously run pubs in NEW YORK, once featured prominently in GoodFellas , has been so overlooked for such a long time.
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And by last week, because of building owners Ken and Henry Shi’s indefensible rent hike from $2000 per month to $5400, and the mind-melting fact that Neir’s doesn’t have landmark status, this tavern/treasure was set to close on January 12th.
“With each closing of a historic bar we are destroying part of the fabric of our city,” legendary Ear Inn (est. 1817) owner Martin Sheridan told Entrepreneur . “Living history is indeed important to our day to day lives.”
Confronted with closing its doors forever, the pub’s proprietor, Loycent Gordon, got creative. He called directly into WNYC’s The Brian Leher Show and pleaded his case to the program’s weekly guest, NEW YORK Mayor Bill de Blasio.
“I was considering a lot of various ways to discover a miracle,” sighed a visibly spent Gordon. “Local businesses don’t have a whole lot of leverage, but a mayor is meant to be there for the citizens and I made a decision to utilize that.”
Significantly less than two days later Hizzonor was nursing beers at Neir’s alongside a packed house of overjoyed regulars, and an extremely relieved/exhausted Gordon, while announcing a “handshake deal” with the sufficiently shamed Shi siblings, to keep this dive alive.
Credit: Bill Schulz
Loyal patrons Lisina Padilla, 37, (pictured left) and Brigida Rodriguez, 35. Says Rodriguez, “Neir’s is my Cheers! The staff is similar to family. They know very well what I want before I’ve an opportunity to greet them. It’s the first place I go when I’m having a rough day and the first place I go when I’m having an excellent day.”
But what does this handshake deal mean exactly?
“All I’m permitted to say,” smiled Gordon, “is that just how this deal has been setup is if we fail, they fail—it’s been 36 hours of the cheapest of lows to the best of the highs.” (And a purported $90 thousand grant from the Department of SMALL COMPANY Services can’t hurt.)
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It isn’t the 1st time Gordon has saved this place. When the 40-year-old Jamaican immigrant and NYFD lieutenant realized Neir’s was at risk of closing back 2009, he convinced the building’s owner to let him choose the establishment on the cheap. And he quickly discovered that he previously put himself on a journey along an extremely rocky road.
At the start of Gordon’s tavern-running adventure, the joint was immediately burglarized. Then he tried some ill-fated 50-cent beer nights, spent excess amount on fruitless advertising ventures and lastly embraced the grim realization that he’d bitten off a lot more than he could chew and/or brew.
And? An epiphany.
“There’s grounds why this place has lasted this long,” sighed Gordon as he settled back to his tiny office’s chair. “There’s grounds why it’s still here, and I had to find that reason.”
Gordon started simple seat-filling perennials like Trivia Tuesdays, stand-up comedy nights and Saturday karaoke, which reinforced the neighborhood-wide belief that Neir’s was as much a museum since it is a warm blanket for your of Woodhaven.
Credit: Bill Schulz
Bartender Selenia Correa: “We get yourself a large amount of GoodFellas fans that are looking to see this place, but I really like to be able to say Mae West danced as of this bar!”
“It’s been a whole lot of effort and I’m not saying I’ve everything together,” said Gordon. “But I finished up hiring people that have confidence in this place. And choosing the best employees was key.”
Seems like it’d be easy to obtain a nearly 200-year-old enterprise an effective landmark designation, right? Eh, not really much. Welcome to NY bureaucracy at its most obnoxious…
“We were denied in 2016, and the reason why was a technicality,” recalled Gordon. “We’re an exclusive business, plus they claimed the area wasn’t ‘historically significant enough.’ We apparently need to pay five grand to employ an architect to examine the area before we reapply.”
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Unlike Manhattan historical hotspots such as Old Town Bar, McSorley’s, Fraunces Tavern or these Ear Inn, Neir’s is way off the beaten track.
Even after an extended walk from the area’s J/Z subway stations, or a pricey Uber ride, curious first-timers could possibly be forgiven for accidentally strolling past an unassuming property hidden within a heavily residential 78th Street.
All that hard-to-find mystery was enough to pique Anthony Bourdain’s interest back 2017, but none of it aided this destination’s battle to juggle old regulars requests with rookie visitors expectations.
Credit: Bill Schulz
Patron Luz Rocca, 65: “Four generations of my children attended to Neir’s. I play Bingo with my 90-year-old mom here. I cried when I heard these were gonna close and I cried when I then found out these were staying open."
“I’ve a technique that’s simple,” declared Gordon on juggling the needs of repeat patrons versus new arrivals, “I remind our regulars that tourists aren’t our enemies. When you imagine of the positioning, the travel involved, it’s so hard to access so we must provide them with applause for even locating the place.”
Unlike your perfectly preserved Philadelphias, New Orleans or Bostons, NY builds, builds, builds and destroys, destroys, destroys at an astonishing rate. Neir’s is among the hardly any pubs that’s somehow were able to escape this fate. But this place ain’t one among the oldest Knickerbocker alehou