Even as I was writing the news, it didn't feel right. Last week, the owner of Neir's Tavern—one of New York City's oldest bars, established in 1829—announced the business was going to shutter on Sunday. But frustratingly, the reasons for the closure didn't sound insurmountable. Unlike elsewhere in New York, flashy developers weren't swooping in to tear the building down: The 190-year-old tavern is located on an unassuming corner in the Woodhaven neighborhood of Queens. Instead, current owner Loy Gordon—who's run the joint for the past 11 years—announced it was no longer financially viable for him to keep the doors open due to low revenue and a rent hike. Sure, businesses getting the boot due to a rent hike is common practice—but kicking out an 190-year-old tenant seemed especially heartless, even by NYC standards.
Mayor Bill de Blasio felt the same way. And on Friday, the city stepped in to negotiate a deal—what the New York Times has billed as a "handshake" agreement for a new five-year lease thanks to a bit of government backscratching in return for lower rent. "New York City's small businesses are what make this city so special, and as the city's oldest bar, Neir's leads the pack," de Blasio was quoted as saying. (For the record, whether Neir's is actually NYC's oldest bar is up for debate. Gordon reportedly uses the specification that it's the oldest to continuously operate at the same location.)
According to the New York Post, the agreement came together on Friday afternoon when De Blasio and Tom Grech, the president and CEO of Queens Chamber of Commerce, convinced the owners of the building, Ken and Henry Shi, to come in for a meeting. "We spent two hours at the chamber of commerce," Grech stated. "I locked the door and I said we're not going to leave until we have a deal."
That night, everyone, including the mayor, toasted their success—the "miracle" that Gordon had asked for in his closing announcement—the only sensible way: a beer at Neir's Tavern. "This wouldn't have happened without the mayor stepping in, without the landlord working with us," Gordon reportedly told the joyous crowd. "It wouldn't have happened without you really coming out and supporting. It's a community effort."
That said, a five-year lease only gets Gordon half way to his ultimate goal: celebrating Neir's 200th anniversary. Whether they'll make that bicentennial remains up in the air. But hopefully the positive takeaway from all of this is to remind New Yorkers not to take their historically old taverns for granted. Woodhaven might not be the city's trendiest neighborhood, but after 190 years, maybe it's time you made a stop.