After Neir’s Tavern in Woodhaven escaped the jaws of bar and restaurant death several times over the past year and a half, the historic locale recently got a little cause for celebration: It’s getting a cash windfall.
The South Queens bar was one of 25 historic and culturally significant restaurants in the Unites States that were picked to receive a $40,000 grant from American Express and the National Trust.
The mission of the program is to award over $1 million in grants to help restaurants improve, upgrade and preserve their exterior physical spaces and online businesses. The program had a preference for restaurants owned by underrepresented groups, including people of color and women, disproportionately impacted by the pandemic.
“As the oldest establishment on the list, Neir’s Tavern understands the importance of garnering community support,” said its owner, Loycent Gordon, in a statement. “We are honored that American Express and the National Trust for Historic Preservation chose Neir’s Tavern to be one of the grantees of its Backing Historic Small Restaurants Grant Program. It will provide much relief as we navigate the way out of our second pandemic.”
The tavern will be using the grant for exterior work such as replacing the Neir’s sign, which is in disrepair, fixing the awnings and redoing the cracked cement.
Gordon added that without the Neirs200 community, a virtual group dedicated to keeping the bar alive until its 200th birthday, in 2029, he would not have known about the grant. Several of the Neirs200 ambassadors alerted Gordon to its existence, so that he was able to apply for it in time.
When Gordon’s landlord announced an impossible rent increase in January of 2020, the threat of closure attracted support from residents and elected officials. Ever since then, the Neirs200 group has become more tightknit and organized.
When the bar shut its doors at the beginning of the pandemic to protect its customers and employees, it was unclear whether it would be able to open back up.
But with the help of the community, Gordon hunkered down to create a path forward for what is arguably New York City’s oldest bar, doing takeout and delivery, transitioning to outdoor seating and eventually opening its doors back up as Gov. Cuomo began to lift restrictions.
In so doing, the bar became a symbol for post-pandemic resiliency and a hub of community activity for many in South Queens. Earlier this month, Gordon held a rally to make the bar a historical landmark as well as an autism awareness event. At 6 p.m. May 25, the Neirs200 group will hold a Mental Health Awareness Panel.
For upcoming events and public notices, visit facebook.com/groups/neirs200/.