June 13, 2023 By Michael Dorgan
An Elmhurst street corner has been co-named after the former owner of the Grandstand Pub and Restaurant, a beloved Irish American bar that closed last year.
The intersection of Simonson Street and Grand Avenue is now known as John Browne Way, named after the publican John Browne who died early last year.
Councilman Shekar Krishnan joined Browne’s family and friends, as well as local residents and former customers of the bar, for the co-naming ceremony. Many of the attendees were of Irish descent.
Browne, an Irish immigrant from County Cork, was the face of the pub, having established it in 1988. Locals credited Browne for turning the bar into a gathering place for immigrants in search of a helping hand. It was a neighborhood staple for nearly 35 years.
Under Browne’s stewardship, the bar became known for its welcoming atmosphere and often hosted Irish music sessions and karaoke. Well-known Irish musicians Mick Moloney and Donie Caroll often performed at the bar.
Carrol, who played a number of Irish traditional songs during the June 10 ceremony, remembered Browne fondly, and said the co-naming was deserving of the Cork man. He said Browne was very generous and gave back to the local community.
“It was a great idea to co-name that street because John was an icon and one of the most compassionate, decent people you could ever wish to meet,” Carrol told the Queens Post. “I played music for him for 25 years and he was very supportive of everything artistic, and the local community as well.”
The bar was often used for community events and family events, such as birthday parties, or after religious celebrations such as Holy Communions. It was also known for its Christmas breakfasts and Browne would buy toys for the children who attended, according to Krishnan.
Browne, Carrol said, was a tremendous advocate for Irish immigrants who arrived in New York in search of a better life. The Grandstand was often the first stop for many immigrants looking for employment, as well as housing — and John would always do his best to help them.
Browne was an advocate for the Irish Immigration Reform Movement (IIRM), which sought to legalize the status of undocumented immigrants from Ireland in the late 1980s.
The movement was initiated by the County Cork Benevolent, Patriotic, and Protective Association, an organization that aims to maintain roots between Cork and people who have immigrated to America from Cork.
Browne was a member of the organization for nearly 50 years and a past president, Carrol said.
“He supported new immigrants to New York and was also a terrific leader of the Cork Association,” Carrol said.
Browne also served in the U.S. Armed Forces, from 1960 to 1962, as part of the 3rd Aviation Company of the 3rd Infantry Division. He was also active in the labor movent as a shop steward.
Krishnan said that Browne was an extraordinary person whose actions, deeds, and words will live on. He said Browne was also an exemplary business owner, and that his legacy will leave a lasting impact.
“Each and every one of you … has had a personal connection with such a wonderful human being, whose story and history will live on permanently in our community, marked by a street today.”
The Grandstand was a pub in Elmhurst where everyone knew your name. Its owner, John Browne, was simply extraordinary. He spent his life giving back to the world around him—from here in Queens to County Cork, Ireland. Honored to join his family & name a street in his memory. pic.twitter.com/fntPRWnWC3
— Shekar Krishnan (@voteshekar) June 10, 2023