190-Year-Old Queens Bar Neir's Saved From the Brink of Closure

Thanks to a last-minute deal, the bar that's been slinging libations since the Andrew Jackson administration will get to stay open

Neirs Bar in Queens closing
NBC New York

What to Know

  • Historic Neir’s Tavern, in Queens, will be able to remain open after a handshake agreement between the owner and landlords
  • Bar owner Loy Gordon met with the property owners on Friday and were able to reach a deal to keep the 190-year-old bar open
  • The Woodhaven staple was used as the bar featured a number of times in Martin Scorsese’s 1990 mob film “Goodfellas”

Let the drinks flow!

Historic Queens bar Neir's Tavern will be able to stay open thanks to some last-minute help, after the owner was looking for a "miracle" to prevent the 190-year-old watering hole from closing its doors for good.

Loy Gordon was able to come to a handshake agreement with property owners Ken and Henry Shi that will keep the bar that opened in 1829 in business.

“New York City’s small businesses are what make this city so special, and as the city’s oldest bar, Neir’s Tavern leads the pack," Mayor Bill de Blasio said in a statement. "I’m proud to have helped keep the doors open so New Yorkers can continue to enjoy a place that has meant so much to so many over the years. Cheers to another 190 years!"

Gordon and the owners met Friday afternoon at the Queens Chamber of Commerce headquarters, and were said to have reached a five-year deal.

“We are very happy to have Neir’s Tavern stay open and continue our 190 years of continuous operation,” Gordon said, adding later that the victory was "one for the little guys."

The bar was packed with supporters Friday night, including de Blasio, who gave a cheers to the bar. "When I heard about what was happening with Neir’s… I said, 'This just cannot happen, we can’t lose this bar. We can't lose this part of our history,'" he said.

The Woodhaven staple was set to close this Sunday, according to a post Gordon had on the bar’s Facebook page, as he had been unable to get long-term lease he could afford. He had been operating on month-to-month deals, but insufficient sales led to a year of losing money.

“Thank you to all parties for helping to make this project work," property owners Ken and Henry Shi said Friday. "We are indebted to Mayor de Blasio, Council Member Robert Holden and New York State Assemblyman Mike Miller."

Miller said that he has gone to Neir's a number times since taking office for "events, meetings, lunch and dinner," and was "happy to have been a part of this historic meeting to save such an iconic landmark in my district."

Gordon, a lieutenant in the FDNY, led an effort to get the bar official landmark status in 2016, but it was unsuccessful. In an email, Gordon said he hadn’t been able to negotiate an affordable lease, and facing a rent increase of more than $2,000 per month, he feared he would have to close the bar that has been slinging libations since the Andrew Jackson administration — even before other more famous historic bars like McSorley’s Ale House.

Ariel Palitz, director of NYC's Office of Nightlife, said her office spoke with the property owners and will look to help them moving forward. "New York’s legacy venues are the lifeblood of our communities, and the City will do whatever it can to ensure that they are protected and supported," Palitz said.

Neir's Tavern was featured in a number of films, including Martin Scorsese’s 1990 mob film “Goodfellas,” and was said to be where actress and singer Mae West got her start.

The bar, which opened in 1829 as The Old Blue Pump House, went by a few different names and had a number of different features over the years, including a bowling alley and a ballroom. Louis Neir, for whom the bar is named, bought the watering hole in 1898. It remained in the family until 1967.

Gordon purchased the bar in 2009, and when asked how much longer he thought the bar might be able to stick around, he answered, "hopefully another 190 years."

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