BY BENJAMIN FANG
When Loycent Gordon made it public last month that Neir’s Tavern would be closing its doors on Sunday, he was hoping for a miracle. “In the back of my mind, I still keep saying that something’s going to happen,” said Gordon, who owns the 190-year-old Woodvahen pub, said in an interview shortly after the announcement. “But I’m trying to face the truth, and that’s hard.”
The very next day, he got his miracle. Thanks to support from government officials and the Queens Chamber of Commerce, Gordon reached a handshake agreement with property owners Ken and Henry Shi to avoid the historic bar’s last call. On January 10, hundreds of revelers packed Neir’s Tavern after hearing the good news.
Mayor Bill de Blasio, who heard Gordon’s plea on the radio earlier that day, showed up to celebrate the deal. “When I heard about what was happening with Neir’s, like everybody in this bar, I said this just cannot happen,” the mayor said. “We can’t lose this bar. We can’t lose this part of our history.”
“The hardest decision I’ve had to make”
Gordon, a Jamaican immigrant and New York City firefighter who bought the bar 11 years ago, first informed his staff and customers of his plan to shutter the watering hole last Wednesday. On the morning of January 9, he sent out an email and posted on Facebook that he had to come to the decision after failing to obtain an affordable long-term lease. He noted that exorbitant rent and insufficient sales led to financial losses every month.
Due to an increase in personal obligations, he wrote, he was also no longer able to put in the time to “overcome increasing business challenges.” “I had to face the truth,” he wrote. “Neir’s Tavern is losing money and I don’t have the time to help to overcome it. “I have no more money after Sunday,” Gordon added in his post. “I’m sorry I let you down.”
Gordon said in an interview later that day that the landlords wanted to double his rent to more than $5,000 per month. “I felt like I was alone,” he said. “I didn’t want to tell anybody that I was in trouble.”
Patrons reminisce on iconic bar’s history
Pat Merola from Woodhaven and his cousin Nick Cuttonaro from Glendale were sitting at the bar when they learned that their regular spot was closing.
“We usually meet here on a Wednesday or a Thursday,” Merola said. “We have a couple beers, some hot wings and then we go to see a movie.” Cuttonaro said he couldn’t believe it was closing. “It’s a beautiful place,” he said. “Where are we going to go?”
Eric Schleyer from Woodhaven said his father worked as a bartender at Neir’s Tavern from the late 1980s to the early 2000s. He recalled that as a child, he used to run down to the corner bar to deliver sandwiches. As a film major in college, Schleyer said he shot a short film inside the tavern, and later worked with Gordon to create a small commercial for the bar.
“I got my foot in the door here,” he said.