Neir's Tavern, a historic Queens bar that is possibly the oldest in New York City, will pour its last drink on Sunday, according to the owner.
Loycent Gordon, a lieutenant in the New York City Fire Department who bought the Woodhaven establishment with a group of friends in 2009, confirmed the news to Gothamist on Thursday after sending out an email to friends and customers.
According to city real estate records, the property was bought in December 2018 for $1.35 million by an LLC called 353 Rockaway Realty. Gordon said that shortly after the building changed hands, the rent shot up from a little over $2,000/month to $3,100. Later, he was told the asking rent for a new lease would be roughly $5,400. Gordon is currently without a lease and paying month-to-month, he said, and added that the landlord has not been willing to negotiate.
"I don’t have enough time to fight these battles anymore," the 40-year-old Gordon said with resignation, adding that he still works full-time at the fire department.
He said that given the high rent and lack of a long-term lease, it seemed unlikely that anyone would be able to take over the bar.
Efforts to reach the owner of the LLC were unsuccessful.
Established in 1829 when the area was mostly farmland, the bar is a legendary spot among locals but which struggled to earn respect among a broader set of New Yorkers. Brooklyn native Mae West allegedly got her start performing at Neir's. At one point the establishment had a ballroom, a bowling alley, and a hotel under the name Neir's Social Hall.
Over the years, Neir's became known as an authentic New York watering hole and drew the attention of filmmakers. Martin Scorsese shot several scenes from Goodfellas there and it was also served as the backdrop for the 2011 film Tower Heist with Ben Stiller and Eddie Murphy. In 2017, Anthony Bourdain featured the bar on his show Parts Unknown.
The prior owners, the Neirs, whose ancestor originally bought the bar in 1898, had been a family of German immigrants. When Gordon took over a decade ago, the change seemed to make sense.
Gordon immigrated to New York City from Jamaica when he was 10 years old, and spent 8 months renovating the place, including the 150-year-old mahogany bar. Over the decade, the bar experienced a resurgence with a diverse clientele that reflected the working class minority and immigrant neighborhood. In 2016, Gordon waged an unsuccessful campaign to have the bar officially landmarked by the city.
"It feels like a microcosm of the real New York City," he said.
Gordon said the stress of keeping it going had gotten to him. In December, he was hospitalized for heart palpitations.
"I guess my body was telling me something," he said.
UPDATE: A previous version of this story misstated the original rent Gordon said he was paying. He told Gothamist the rent was initially a little over $2,000/month.