Bar brawl breaks out over which tavern is oldest in New York

A bar brawl over who owns the oldest tavern in the town has broken out afresh with the claim by a New York historian that the most venerable establishment is in Queens and not Manhattan as was previously understood.

 McSorley's Old Ale House, , East Village, New York City

McSorley's Old Ale House, East Village, New York City is being challenged by Neir's in Queens as to which is the oldest bar in the city Image by (vincent desjardins / CC BY 2.0

For years many thought the honour belonged to McSorley’s Old Ale House but now Neir’s Tavern in Woodhaven is claiming the crown as it opened 30 years earlier in 1829. Fabled McSorley’s in the East Village is said to be the oldest Irish pub in the city (set. 1854) but it doesn’t cut the mustard against Neir’s, according to Richard Hourahan of the Queens Historical Society.

The New York Daily News said Hourahan, who laboured over old records before making his claim, believed this would be an exciting discovery for Queens. However crowns are not given up lightly and the manager of McSorley’s, Gregory de la Haba, defended its claim as being the oldest premises for serving its customers, even through Prohibition. He told the Daily News that McSorley’s bar was the oldest continuously operating bar in New York City. “It’s the most authentic - hands down,” he stressed, adding that what was being sought here was authenticity and not just age. Mr de la Haba praised Neir’s  as a "fine bar"and also mentioned the White Horse, Fanelli’s and PJ Clarke’s as noteworthy establishments.

Historian Mr Hourahan said he had conducted the research with a Neir’s owner, Loycent Gordon, in an effort to separate fact from fiction in connection to New York’s bars. He said they also wanted to see if they could include Neir’s on the National Register of Historic Places. Neir’s has other claims to fame; notably it was a watering hole frequented by movie star Mae West, while a number of scenes in the film “Goodfellas” were shot at the site.

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