While in New York for the 2013 Belmont Stakes, Times staff visited Neir’s Tavern in Woodhaven, knowing its unique history and ties to the sport of horse racing. Neir’s was originally opened in 1829 as The Blue Pump Room by Cadwallader Colden, track proprietor for the nearby Union Race Course.
Colden’s name may sound familiar if you’ve read the Times’ Great Match Race series about the 1823 match race between American Eclipse and Sir Henry at the Union Course, for it was Colden who provided a detailed account of this race, having closely followed the action himself while riding around the track on horseback.
After 190 years of operation, Neir’s Tavern will close this Sunday, owner Loy Gordon announced today. The closure comes despite community efforts to ensure Neir’s future, including the formation of the 190 Committee to raise historical awareness and an application for landmark status, which was denied by the Landmarks Preservation Commission.
“I’ve been unable to obtain an affordable long term lease to reach our goal of the 200th anniversary in 2029,” Gordon stated on the tavern’s Facebook page. “I’m operating month to month with an unaffordable rent and insufficient sales to overcome a year of losing money every month.”
Eater NY reported that the building’s landlords demanded an increase of more than $2,000 per month–for a total rent cost of $5,400 monthly–in addition to repair expenses.
The original Blue Pump bar–or “Blue Pump House,” as stated by some sources–was renamed The Old Abbey in 1835, and according to the Neir’s Tavern blog, it became notorious as a watering hole for “black legs, thieves, housebreakers [and] fighting men” who patronized the nearby track. Ownership of The Old Abbey changed hands in 1841 and was later purchased in 1898 by its namesake Louis Neir, whose Neir’s Social Hall provided expanded offerings including a bowling alley, ballroom and hotel.
New owners revisited the bar’s origins by naming it the Union Course Tavern in 1967. In 1989, the tavern served as a filming location for Martin Scorsese’s Goodfellas—see link to a 15-minute video of the filming.
In 2009, the name reverted back to Neir’s Tavern when partners, including Gordon, purchased the bar and spent nearly a year restoring it. The bar again served as the backdrop for more film scenes, this time for the 2011 comedy Tower Heist starring Ben Stiller.
Editor, Antebellum Turf Times