Photo: Flickr – Nicki Ishmael
The New York City restaurant scene is brutal. Only 20% survive after five years.So how do bars manage to stay around for decades — even centuries?
Good management, amazing bartenders and pure luck seem to have more to do with it than anything else. After all, many long-standing “dive” bars serve more rail drinks than anything else.
Though it’s arguable what bars have been in New York longest, we’ve toured seven that are in the running.
In the 1950s and 60s, Bob Dylan, Jack Kerouac and Hunter S. Thompson could be seen knocking back drinks at the White Horse
Dylan Thomas, who notoriously drank himself under the table and died a few days later, was a frequent patron.
Today, NYU students and tourists looking to follow in the footsteps of their favourite Beat writer have kept the White Horse in business despite floundering reviews.
Management doesn't let something like not technically being a designated New York City landmark or on the National Register of Historic Places stop Pete's from being declared an 'official historic landmark.'
You can drink the bar's own 1864 Ale while sitting in the same booth writer O. Henry did. And tons of television shows and movies have been shot there, from Seinfeld to Endless Love. It's a nostalgia factor that works pretty well for a bar that's been open almost 150 years.
'We've changed with the times and with the neighbourhood,' she continues. 'This place used to close at 11 -- now things don't get started here on the weekends until after 12.'
'At the same time, people have been coming here their whole lives. The only reason you won't see them anymore is because they've passed away.'
McSorley's is another bar that claims to be the oldest continuously-operated saloon in NYC. The bar says it was opened in 1854, despite research that says there was no bar at that site by that year.
Located in the East Village, McSorley's can make other historical claims, such as being the oldest Irish tavern in New York that has served Abraham Lincoln and John Lennon.
Sawdust floors and old newspaper clippings give people the feeling of stepping back in time when they walk through the doors of McSorley's. The bar serves ale that comes in pairs (order one, get two) and liverwurst sandwiches, making it the ultimate old man's bar.
It's also gone through several iterations — as a brothel, a grocery store, and the twice-weekly board room of mayor Ed Koch
The New York Times has called the menu 'outstanding,' which shows that a bar can't stay in business based on liquor alone. It continues to draw politicians, drinkers and soft-shell crab enthusiasts from all over the city.
Whether you call it The Green Door, The James Brown House or The Ear Inn, this place has been around a while. It was similar to the taverns of its time in that it didn't allow women and its beer and liquor were home-brewed.
Though it also lays claim to being the oldest bar in the city, The Ear didn't start serving drinks until the 1890s.
Though it's located in the trendy SoHo neighbourhood, it asks that people refrain from using cell phones inside to preserve the old-school feel
Old Town, just north of Union Square, houses a 55-foot long bar and 16 foot high ceilings.
All types of New Yorkers live and work in the area around Union Square, and it's one of the best neighborhoods in the city for relaxing after work. People come for the drinks, for the food (the hamburgers have been called 'some of the city's tastiest'), and perhaps to be seen; after all, Old Town was named one of the best bars in America by Esquire.
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