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Neir’s Tavern celebrates 194 years of bringing neighbors together in Woodhaven

Oct. 9, 2023 By Gabriele Holtermann

The rain didn’t damper the spirits of patrons celebrating legendary Neir’s Tavern’s 194th birthday with a block party featuring Deejay Khalil, Jazz music by the Kelly Green Trio, raffles, a Steeplechase course and food on Oct. 7 in Woodhaven.

This year’s milestone was dedicated to the life and legacy of NY1 news anchor Ruschell Boone for her community reporting. Neir’s Tavern owner Loycent Gordon told QNS that Boone, who lost her battle with pancreatic cancer last month, touched everyone.

Neir’s Tavern owner Loycent Gordon dedicated the tavern’s 194th birthday to the life and legacy of NY1 news anchor Ruschell Boone. Photo by Gabriele Holtermann

“Every year, we’re celebrating Neir’s like it’s a milestone year because tomorrow is not guaranteed,” Gordon said. “And it’s just a reflection of what has happened to Ruschell. You know, life is not guaranteed. So let’s celebrate as much as we can every day like it’s a milestone.”

Gordon said he is looking forward to celebrating Neir’s 200th birthday and shared that the tavern had “fully recovered” after it had hit a rough spot in 2020 when it was in danger of closing for good because of a steep rent hike.

Gordon was inspired by the outpouring of support that kept the bar going.

“It made me feel that I’m not alone on this journey. It made me feel that there was hope,” Gordon reflected. “People are not just here for burgers and beer. They’re here for a bigger purpose. They believe that we can actually reach 200 years and do it in a way where we are really supporting each other because that’s why I always say community conquers all.”

A birthday wouldn’t be complete without a birthday cake. Photo by Gabriele Holtermann

A birthday wouldn’t be complete without a birthday cake. Photo by Gabriele Holtermann

The most famous bar “you have never heard of” has been featured in blockbuster movies like “Goodfellas” and “Tower Heist.” It has been serving “cold” ones since 1829 and is the oldest watering hole to operate continuously in the same location in the United States — though it has yet to gain landmark status.

Gordon shared that the goal and hope was to buy the building because Neir’s existence shouldn’t depend on a lease.

“We need people to come together and figure out how we can buy this building so Neir’s Tavern is not threatened like it was a few years ago for closure because of rent, trying to maximize rent,” Gordon said.

State Sen. Joseph Addabbo said he couldn’t imagine Woodhaven without Neir’s Tavern.

“It is such a part of our community,” Addabbo said. “What Loy has done here is a miracle; it’s really a beacon for other businesses. When they think they have a rough time, just look at Neir’s and what they went through and the effort they made to stay open.”

Award recipients and elected officals celebrate Neir’s Tavern’s 194th birthday. Photo by Gabriele Holtermann

The highlight of the birthday celebration was the Neir’s Ambassador Awards ceremony, which Gordon started in 2019, to honor members of the tavern’s community for their service and for all that they do for Neir’s, the greater Woodhaven community and its small businesses.

Before the ceremony went underway, Gordon announced the establishment of the Ruschell Boone Community Award, which will honor local journalists reporting about small businesses and the community. The award will be handed out every year leading up to Neir’s Tavern’s 200th anniversary.

“We gotta turn this grief into gratitude and we’re gonna fight on, and we’re gonna be more resilient and make sure we remember someone that inspired so many people and never forget the many lives she touched,” Gordon said.

This year’s Neir’s Ambassador Awards honorees were Chris Flood, who was recognized for his community service and Karen Flood, who was honored for her advocacy.

Martin Colberg received the Small Business Champion Award, Edwin Gardiner Jr was bestowed with the History & Preservation Award, and Robert MacKay was named the “Ambassador of the Year.” The Lifetime Ambassador Award went to the family of the late Maria Thomson.

All award recipients also received citations and certificates of excellence from Addabbo, Assemblywoman Jenifer Rajkumar and City Council Member Joann Ariola.

Adults and kids alike enjoyed the Steeplechase event. Photo by Gabriele Holtermann

Adults and kids alike enjoyed the Steeplechase event. Photo by Gabriele Holtermann

Adults and kids alike enjoyed the Steeplechase event. Photo by Gabriele Holtermann

For many, Neir’s Tavern is a place where “everyone knows your name.”

Griselda Vile lives around the corner and said they bought their house in 2015 because of Neir’s and described it as her “social hub” where the community gathers for comedy night, to play trivia or sing karaoke.

“When we did the [house] tour, [my husband] goes, ‘Oh, here’s Neir’s Tavern,'” Vile said. “And then he Googled it, and oh my god, ‘Goodfellas.’ So he was really like, ‘I want this house.’ And so, I was like, ‘Okay, well then, that’s it.'”

Jason Heyman, Laura Taylor and their daughter Julia are regulars and said Neir’s Tavern is all about community and family.

Laura Taylor, Jason Heyman and their daughter Julia love Neir’s community vibe. Photo by Gabriele Holtermann

“A watering hole always brings neighborhoods together, neighbors together,” said Heyman, who grew up in the area.

Taylor hoped that the tavern was going to be around beyond 200 years.

“For youngsters to get the idea about history,” Taylor pointed out. “It’s about old times and times to come and tell our future children about this place.”

The Kelly Green Trio entertained the crowd with Jazz tunes. Photo by Gabriele Holtermann

Adults and kids alike enjoyed the Steeplechase event. Photo by Gabriele Holtermann

Face-painting was one of the activities for the kids. Photo by Gabriele Holtermann

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