A Quick history of Neirs bar

What Most People Know About Neir’s

Among the oldest and most historic bars in the country, Neir’s Tavern is located in the Woodhaven section of Queens in New York City, near the Brooklyn border. Over 180 years old, it is one of the few old drinking establishments that have been in almost continuous operation (Prohibition notwithstanding) and in the same location, for its entire history. Neir’s is known as the tavern where Mae West first performed, where actors such as W.C. Fields and businessmen like Fred Trump (Donald’s father) would gather for a drink. It has also gained fame as the bar in which the classic Martin Scorsese film,Goodfellas, starring Robert DeNiro, Joe Pesci, Ray Liotta and Lorraine Bracco, was filmed. Tower Heist ) movie starring Ben Stiller, Eddie Murphy, Tea Leoni & Alan Alda was filmed here and fall of 2013 CBS 60 minutes interview notorious ex-mobster John Alite aka John “Aletto” (from Gambino and Gotti associations) at Neirs. Apparently it was a favorite hang not just as portrayed in the movie Goodfellas but in real life.


Neir’s Humble Beginnings

Neir’s was founded in October 1829 as “The Blue Pump Room”, by Cadwallader R. Colden, the manager of the famed Union Course Race Track that was then across the street. Colden was the “black sheep” of a distinguished family. His great-grandfather, Cadwallader Colden, was the former lieutenant governor and acting governor of New York and a historian, scientist and philosopher. His cousin, Cadwallader D. Colden, was the mayor of New York City and a Congressman. In 1835, The Blue Pump Room was renamed “The Old Abbey”. As the fortunes of the Union Course Race Track declined, The Old Abbey gained a reputation as a “notorious rumseller” that catered to the crowds of “black legs, thieves, housebreakers [and] fighting men” that were going to the races.


The Progression Into The 20th Century

In 1851 The Old Abbey was purchased by Nathan F. Graves, a distinguished politician and banker, who cleaned it up and kept it for almost 40 years. When the race track closed down, the tavern was bought in 1898 by Louis Neir. He expanded it by adding a ballroom, a bowling alley, and rooms upstairs for a hotel, and he called it “Neir’s Social Hall”. The Neir family eventually sold the place in 1967 and it then became“The Union Course Tavern”. In 2009, the tavern was closed for eight months for restoration, including refinishing the 150-year old mahogany bar and fixtures, and has re-opened once again, as Neir’s.


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5 Comments on “A Quick history of Neirs bar
  1. I would like to add to the history. After talking to My dad ( just to make sure I was right because I was only 7 or 8 at the time). My dad played softball for the bar around 1980. At the time The now Neirs Tavern was called Yesterdays. I remember It well. My brother cousin and I spent Sundays afternoons bowling in the back while our fathers enjoyed a few cold ones after the games. Now I remember it well Yesterdays on the window and the Yesterdays Tshirts that they wore. But unfortunately my dad has no pictures from then, and I cant find any information on line.

    • Hi Mike!

      thanks for adding such a great story!! We so wished there were pictures but back then pictures weren’t so common i guess. i’m sure our visitors will love reading this.


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