Cheers in Queens! ‘Handshake’ deal will keep historic tavern open

Mayor Bill de Blasio toasts the salvation of Neir’s Tavern in Queens on Jan. 10. (Photo by Dean Moses)


One of the oldest bars in the city — Neir’s Tavern in Woodhaven — is staying open after all.

The Queens Chamber of Commerce announced Friday night a “handshake agreement” between tavern owner Loycent Gordon and the Woodhaven property’s owners, Ken and Henry Shi, to keep the historic, 190-year-old business open.

 “We are very happy to have Neir’s Tavern stay open and continue our 190 years of continuous operation,” said Gordon, who thanked Mayor Bill de Blasio and the community for their support.

“This wouldn’t have happened if it wasn’t for the mayor stepping in, and if it wasn’t for the landlord working with us, and if it wasn’t for all of you supporting, tweeting, and sharing. It’s a community effort and all three of these organizations — the mayor, the elected officials, the landlord, us — this is how we made it: together.  That’s the message — community. We’re all a community, whether it is a landlord, owner, politician. This is the community. We have to find a way to find a sense of community. To do something that we know is important, which I believe is Neir’s Tavern.”

The Queens Chamber of Commerce, along with de Blasio, City Councilman Robert Holden and Assemblyman Mike Miller, helped make the deal possible, according to the chamber’s announcement.

“When I heard about what was happening with Neir’s, I said, ‘This can not happen. We can’t lose this bar. We can’t lose this part of our history. We can’t lose this part of our community.’ And I couldn’t believe it, I did a double take this morning — 190 years old!” de Blasio said. “This place is magical and we have to protect it.”

“New York City’s small businesses are what make this city so special, and as the city’s oldest bar, Neir’s Tavern leads the pack. I’m proud to have helped keep the doors open so New Yorkers can continue to enjoy a place that has meant so much to so many over the years. Cheers to another 190 years!” he added.

Earlier on Friday, de Blasio said the city would work to save Neir’s Tavern, a day after Gordon announced it would shut down due to unaffordable rents and insufficient sales.

On Friday morning, Gordon called into the Brian Lehrer Show on WYNC and asked the mayor what can be done to help local historic businesses that are faced with regulations and are forced to close down.

“I know it’s a private business, but isn’t there some cultural like significance, we can recognize it in terms of like citywide, that we can kind of help protect this?” Gordon said. “And now I’m fighting this greedy landlord because he wants like, you know, (charge) two and a half times more rent and we just can’t do it. What powers can you use to help us?”

In response to Gordon, de Blasio condemned the landlord’s rent hike, saying, “I’m not clear why landlords do this — where you have a historic business that’s beloved in the community and the landlord is still making a decent return and why they have to jack up the rent all the time.”

“The original sin so often is a greedy landlord. This drives me crazy. I think it’s really disrespectful of local communities and local culture,” de Blasio added.

Mayor Bill de Blasio and Owner Loycent Gordon. (Photo by Dean Moses)

The mayor then said his office could help Gordon with loans through Small Business Services Commissioner Greg Bishop.

“Small businesses are the backbone of NYC’s economy and Neir’s Tavern is a treasure that adds to the distinct character of this city. SBS is proud to offer services to help the business, assist them in keeping their doors open and help maintain the history and vitality of Queens,” Bishop said in a statement released Friday night.

Thomas J. Grech, president and CEO of the Queens Chamber of Commerce said the chamber was thrilled to announce the “handshake” deal Friday night.

Thomas Grech with de Blasio. (Photo by Dean Moses)

“Small businesses are the lifeblood of Queens, adding to the unique character of our neighborhoods and creating jobs and opportunity for New Yorkers. It would be a shame to lose an institution with as much history as Neir’s, and we’re thrilled the bar will continue to serve its patrons for years to come,” Grech said. “This would not have been possible without the efforts of New York City Council Member Robert Holden and New York State Assembly Member Michael Miller. The support and intervention from Mayor Bill de Blasio’s team was also instrumental in reaching this agreement.”

Miller thanked all parties involved for their commitment to reaching an agreement.

“Thank you to the Shi brothers, building owners of 87-48 78th St. and Loycent Gordon, owner of Neir’s for coming together and reaching an agreement to keep Neir’s in business,” he said. “I want to thank all parties who helped make this happen, Mayor Bill de Blasio, the Queens Chamber of Commerce, the Queens Economic Development Corporation, Councilman Robert Holden and my staff for coming up with a solution. I am looking forward to celebrating Neir’s 200th Anniversary.”

City Councilman Robert Holden with state Senator Michael Gianaris. (Photo by Dean Moses)

Holden also applauded the effort to keep the historic tavern open.

“It was a great team effort by the owner Loy, the landlords, and city and state officials. We can all sleep well knowing that this beloved 190-year institution will not have to close its doors and can continue serving the community,” he said.

A handshake agreement to keep the historic bar, which has served patrons in Woodhaven since 1829, open was reached Friday night. (Courtesy of Queens Chamber of Commerce)

Robert Pozarycki contributed to this story.