Bottoms up! Owner of historic Queens bar Neir’s Tavern signs new lease and averts last call

Leonard Greene, New York Daily News

Long before beer joints and watering holes in New York City were feeling the weight of COVID-19, bar owner Loycent Gordon was desperately staving off his lounge’s last call.

Neir’s Tavern in Woodhaven had been hanging on by an apron string since the rent on the 79th St. space nearly tripled in 2018 after a new owner purchased the building that houses the bar.

But thanks to a deal brokered by elected leaders and the Queens Chamber of Commerce, Gordon was able to sign a new lease Thursday and keep the drinks flowing.

“Thank you for believing in me,” Gordon said at a ceremony celebrating his bar’s new lease on life. “Thank you for believing in Neir’s Tavern. Thank you for believing in the city of New York. Today I am really grateful, and I am actually hopeful.”

The watering hole, where parts of the movie “Goodfellas” was filmed, was all set to close early this year until a last-minute handshake agreement.

Gordon is an FDNY lieutenant, who bought into the bar 11 years ago.

Neir’s is one of New York City’s oldest bars, dating back to 1829 when it opened as The Old Blue Pump House. Over the years, it housed a ballroom and bowling alley, as well as the bar that appeared in “Goodfellas” in 1990.

Despite the local lore, Gordon said he had no luck securing landmark status for a spot that everyone from pub patrons to politicians agreed was as much a milepost as the Unisphere in Flushing or the Queensboro Bridge.

Landmark status would have made it impossible for owners or tenants to rip out historical elements such as the Honduran mahogany bar from the early 1800s or the ice-cooled tap, which is rare among bars, Gordon said.

But after elected officials stepped in, Gordon was able to reach a deal and raise a glass with owners Ken and Henry Shi.

“Neir’s Tavern is here for almost 200 years because of you,” said Mayor de Blasio to a socially-distanced crowd of patrons and elected officials Thursday. “It is here because of everyone who runs this place and keeps it going.”

The mayor said there are more city bars and restaurants like Neir’s that deserve a long life.

“Buy local and help these extraordinary small businesses,” de Blasio said. “They’re a part, a heart and soul, of who we are. This place, when you come in here, you feel the spirit of New York City. And we have to save it, and we can all be a part of that.”

Gordon said he’d drink to that.

“We could all do something for the comeback of Neir’s Tavern, and also for the comeback of the city of New York,” Gordon said.

"In the middle of a pandemic we have an opportunity to start over, and try to create connections and not divisions. And I hope that Neir’s Tavern can be a beacon of hope for that.”


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