By Alicia Venter
Loycent Gordon has been the owner and proprietor of “Neir’s Tavern” in Woodhaven for 14 years.
Located at 87-48 78th St., Neir’s has been deemed “the most famous bar you’ve never heard of,” and is in its 193rd year of operation.
Nearing its bicentennial, Gordon is aiming to solidify the future of Neir’s Tavern, hoping to create a strategic board of directors and to possibly have the building become a historic house. Above all, Gordon feels Neir’s Tavern should be owned, not rented.
Ownership, Gordon believes, would solidify the safety of Neir’s Tavern. External forces would not impact the future of the bar. In order for “Neir’s for Years” — a community effort, seen on the walls of Neir’s Tavern, to ensure the longevity of the bar — to come to fruition, Gordon feels it must be autonomous from a landlord or anybody beyond devoted supporters.
“I just feel like Neir’s Tavern shouldn’t be dependent on one person. It’s way more important than that. We need to have a real sustainable model, not one that’s predicated on who has the cheapest prices of beer,” Gordon said. “I know that’s counterproductive to a business and trying to get customers, but I think at the end of the day that Neir’s Tavern is the deal. It’s the deal of the century.”
Acting with a board of directors, there are avenues of revenue that Gorden feels will best ensure the future of the bar.
“We need to figure out how Neir’s Tavern can rise above that fight for customer’s attention. We don’t have all the money in the world to have that economy of scale, of advertising, of buying a ton of products so that you can get it cheaper,” Gordon said. “What we can have is this hope for economy of the community. If everyone can do a little part, we are more powerful than what any advertising dollar can do.”
Gordon does not want the future of Neir’s to sit on his shoulders alone. That, he feels, makes it too vulnerable, and he faithfully believes that it must last beyond his time as owner.
“I’m now transitioning to ‘What is Neir’s like without Loy?’ and that’s scary. I’m looking at a different way that Neir’s can survive without me,” he said.
He looked at the street name, recently titled ‘Neir’s Tavern Way,’ and emphasized that owning Neir’s is an act of service — hence why it is not named ‘Loycent Gordon Way.’
As a small business owner, Gordon has faced an array of challenges. Most notably, he was nearly forced to close the bar in 2020 following a jump in rent from around $2,000 to $5,000 plus other expenses.
With support from elected officials — including the office of then-mayor Bill DeBlasio — the community and the Queens Chamber of Commerce, an agreement was reached for a new five-year lease with a considerably lower rent.
“The small business owners have glorified jobs,” Gordon said. “They could get paid similarly or even more working for someone. But they don’t because there is a level of passion that they aren’t willing to give up — doing something for hopefully the next generation.”
For his contributions in saving Neir’s Tavern and his devotion to the bar — and by extension, the community — Gordon has been honored by the Queens Chamber of Commerce as a Business Person of the Year.
However, he felt it necessary to emphasize that he alone did not save the bar.
“I can’t eat all the burgers and drink all the beer,” Gordon said. “We have to work together to make sure Neir’s presses on.”
Prior to becoming the owner at Neir’s Tavern, Gordon had never runned a bar or restaurant. He is an immigrant, coming to the United States at age 10.
Helped by a community of staff at P.S. 116, he went from being overwhelmingly behind educationally in his fourth grade class to graduating at its top, receiving a standing ovation from parents and staff at his graduation. He recalls janitors peeking their heads through the door windows, hoping to catch a glimpse of Gordon crossing the stage.
This experience left a lasting impression on Gordon — an impression that made him see the failing state of Neir’s Tavern as a way for him to give forward the support that was given to him.
“I came into Neir’s Tavern seeing that it was going to close. The long forgotten place that was special, just as I felt I was, but wasn’t given the love,” Gordon said. “This was my opportunity to give back. What if I could save one of America’s oldest places as an immigrant, as my service.”
Beyond his work at Neir’s Tavern, Gordon is an active firefighter. He was the first graduating class to be hired following the terrorist attacks at the World Trade Center on Sept. 11, 2001.
Neir’s Tavern offers a distinct experience to its customers. Service is part of Gordon’s identity.
From a bowl that allows people to leave behind a community memory and mementos from the 1800s, there is more to Neir’s Tavern than beer.
“It’s about preserving one of America’s oldest places,” Gordon said. “There’s not many of them left.”