Every week, we get word of new bars opening across New York City — cocktail bars and wine bars, beer halls and rooftop lounges, and every other iteration of places to drink imaginable. As we greet new drinking establishments, however, we also have to let others go, and in 2013 there were more than a few closings that brought a tear to our eye.
It’s particularly hard out there for small, local bars whose neighborhoods have changed around them. Quirky Hudson Square bar Antarctica meets its end on Jan. 4, 2014 at the hands of a landlord who “has bigger and better plans,” according to the Tribeca Citizen. Blarney Cove, a small no-frills bar on E. 14th Street, has closed its doors in June. Jackie’s Fifth Amendment, one of the few dive bars left in ritzy Park Slope, felt sufficiently incompatible with the strollers-and-lattes crowd that they started an online petition to “secede from Park Slope and become our own neighborhood, to be tentatively known as ‘Brooklyn.’” Jackie’s closed in October. Odessa Cafe Bar, an East Village landmark for more than 33 years, saw its surroundings change immeasurably before shutting down this fall. But larger venues aren’t always spared. Even the flagship of Heartland Brewery — a well-financed behemoth of a bar if ever there were one — was forced out of Union Square due to rising rents.
The Lower East Side was particularly hard-hit, with longtime music venue and bar The Living Room on Ludlow shutting its doors after 10 years in that location. Rivington Street punk bar St. Jerome’s closed down; rock club Motor City Bar did, too. And Max Fish, a legendary Ludlow Street spot with an eternally colorful cast of characters, picked up and moved … to Williamsburg.
Music venues, with all the artists that pass through them and the memories they hold, are particularly hard to let go of. In addition to the LES venues above, this year saw the end of The Back Fence, which had stood proud on the corner of Bleecker and Thompson since 1945. And the Roseland Ballroom, a venue favored by many artists large and small, will close in April 2014.
It wasn’t just dive bars and music spots we lost. Eternally popular MercBar, a longtime staple of SoHo nightlife, is no more; nor is Heather’s, an offbeat East Village bar where neighborhood locals and the occasional famous DJ could drink together. And Splash, a gay nightclub with 22 years of history, closed down as well.
Even places in keeping with our modern-day cocktail trends weren’t immune: The Beagle, a popular East Village cocktail bar, closed its doors in early November; and Painkiller (renamed PKNY), a tiki bar with lines out the door just a few years ago, shut down too.
But can we take heart in bars rising from the ashes? Max Fish, Williamsburg, may seem odd, but it’s far better than losing that legacy forever. Beloved Irish dive Emerald Inn, with 66 years of history on the Upper West Side, found a new home around the corner. And the owners of many bars above — Heathers, The Living Room, and The Beagle among them — are reportedly searching for new spaces as well. Let’s hope that 2014 is the year we welcome back many New York favorites. Even if they’re not quite as we remember them.
Read more of our 2013 year-end wrap-ups here.