‘I can rebuild a business, but I cannot rebuild a life’: Historic Neir’s Tavern temporarily closes due to COVID-19

The exterior of Neir's Tavern in 2016
Photo courtesy of Flickr user The Whistling Monkey

Historic Neir’s Tavern is temporarily closing due to the nationwide social distancing guidelines getting extended to the end of April in order to prevent the further spread of COVID-19.

“Today, as the owner New York City’s oldest bar and grill, I fall back on my 10-year principle people over profit,” said Loycent Gordon, the owner of the 191-year-old restaurant located on 87-48 78th St. in Woodhaven.

Tuesday, March 31 (or what many know as Takeout Tuesday) will be their last operating day until the social distancing mandate is lifted.

Gordon said that his business diligently worked to transition to the statewide takeout and delivery model by using online ordering, online gift cards, foregoing all owner salary, and almost immediately created a GoFundMe page for their staff — which raised $5,000 in less than a week.

But Gordon believes that as the virus continues to spread, remaining open under the mandated structure may still cause undue risk to his staff and guests, and jeopardize the long-term viability “of the Neir’s Tavern we know and love.”

“I’ve fought for Neir’s Tavern for over 11 years and if this closure saves one life, then it’s worth it to throw away 190 years of continuous operation,” Gordon said. “We have entered into a new paradigm.”

Gordon added that with the money raised through GoFundMe and government assistance they can apply for, they will keep staff on payroll as long as possible “so they have nothing to worry about.”

“I am a socially conscious entrepreneur that understands I can rebuild a business, but I cannot rebuild a life,” Gordon said.

He hopes his fellow local businesses will do the same.

“I call on the local business community to evaluate your own personal situation to ensure the present business climate and mandated business model aligns with your values,” Gordon said.

Gordon is also calling for delivery apps to work with local restaurants. Last week, he advocated for Uber Eats and other delivery apps to be transparent with the messages they’re sending to restaurant owners during this pandemic.

A fellow local business owner felt cheated after he found he was still charged a 30 percent commission fee in his weekly report from Uber Eats, even though he thought that fee would be waived after seeing the news that Uber Eats and other delivery apps like Grubhub announced changes to their conditions to assist struggling restaurants during this time.

“I call on delivery apps to work with local restaurants you’ve built a billion-dollar business on the backs of,” he said.  “I will continue to evaluate any socially conscious role Neir’s Tavern may play to feed our frontline workers fighting this pandemic and those in our community unable to buy food for their families during this inevitable depression.”

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