New York City is one of the best bar cities in the world, hands down. And when it comes to historic bars, New York City has more than its fair share. In fact if you wanted to do a historic bar crawl, this may be the best city to do it in.
1. The oldest bar in New York City is Fraunces Tavern. Located at 54 Pearl Street in New York City, this place is both a bar/restaurant and a museum, both honoring the tradition of taverns in New York City.
The tavern was originally opened in 1762 as the Queen's Head Tavern by Samuel Fraunces, a black tavern-keeper from the Carribean. It immediately became one of the most popular taverns in town, and was especially popular with area patriots. George Washington was one of its most famous patrons, and in fact he partied here on more than one occasion.
True, the tavern did take a few breaks between its days as a harbor for revolutionaries, but a fact is a fact: it is the oldest bar in the City of New York.
2. Falling second on our list of oldest bars in New York City is Bridge Cafe, located at 279 Water Street. You won't find this one on a lot of other lists, but the fact is this place has been serving alcohol longer than all but one other place in town.
The building--now the last clap board building on the area--was built in 1794, and was immediately put to use as a porter house, selling beer and ale to local sailors.
From there the building houses a long list of occupants, all peddling booze in one manner or another. It was also a noted brothel, and in fact was raided at least once by city police for the prostitution going on upstairs.
3. The third oldest bar in New York City is the Ear Inn, located at 326 Spring Street. Built in 1812 by the black Revolutionary War veteran, James Brown, the building was first occupied by a tavern in 1817, establishing a tradition. In the mid 19th century it was sold to an Irish immigrant named Thomas Cloke.
Cloke, an interprising Irishman, immediately set about making and bottling beer and spirits for the nearby sailors and pirates who patrolled the water right outside the front door. The place became synonomous with prostitution and other nefarious deeds.
In 1977 the bar changed hands once again and got its current owners and name, and has become a beloved watering hole for city residents and tourists alike.
McSorley's was opened by Irish Immigrant John McSorley in 1854 this place has become a venerable New York City watering hole. The walls of the small bar are packed with memorabilia and artifacts from almost two centuries of life.
They play no music or televisions in the place, so conversation is considered important here. Also, they serve only beer--two kinds, light and dark. This is a McSorley tradition, so loved that when John passed the bar down to his son he later had to fire him because he was serving booze!
This place gets packed quickly, but it is most definitely worth your time and wait.
5. Number five on the list of the oldest bars in New York City would have to be Pete's Tavern, at 129 East 18th Street. Though they long to be put before McSorley's records show that the first pub on this spot was established in 1864, so just ten years off the mark.
That really doesn't matter though, this is a fine bar with tons of history. In fact, unlike McSorley's, Pete's actually stayed open and serving alcohol during prohibition, disguising itself like a flower shop (McSorley's served 'near beer').
Its historical pedigree is just as good as well. One of my favorite facts is that O. Henry wrote one of the most famous Christmas stories of all time right in one of Pete's booths. The Gift of the Magi is read in most every elementary school around the country. Nobody would suspect it was penned in New York City bar!
See a video of the 5 Oldest Bars of New York, including things you DON'T want to miss in each--plus we include a bonus bar. Enjoy!
So that's it, the five most historic and oldest bars in New York City. Enjoy and as always, be safe!