After three decades of drinks, cheers, live music and memories, O’Flanagan’s, just south of 66th Street, closed its doors for the last time on August 31. Photo: Shoshy Ciment
Former city Mayors Rudy Giuliani and Michael Bloomberg might diverge politically, but when it comes to drinks, they’re on the same page.
“If it wasn’t for O’Flanagan’s on First Avenue, I don’t know where I would have spent my Friday nights as a young man,” said Bloomberg in 2008 at the U.S.-Northern Ireland Investment Conference. “It is nearly impossible to imagine New York’s history without our ties to Ireland,” he added.
For three decades, O’Flanagan’s was a dependable spot for locals — and mayors — to wind down or party up; Giuliani also frequented the Irish bar and restaurant at a time. But on Friday, August 31, after 30 years of drinks, cheers, live music and memories, O’Flanagan’s, just south of 66th Street, closed its doors for the last time.
“We’re not going voluntarily,” said Gerry McGwyne, one of the owners of the bar, before it closed. The management team at O’Flanagan’s was given notice 10 years ago that they could be forced to vacate the building at any time. Three months ago, that warning became an imminent possibility.
“Devastated is an understatement,” said McGwyne, who is originally from Sligo, Ireland. “We had a fantastic family of people over here. Great friends for life, we had.”
The bar’s lawyers negotiated with the landlord during a three-month battle that ended without success.
The property, at 1215 First Ave., is owned by the Hakim Organization and rumored to be slated for demolition.
“They’re telling us they’re knocking down the building and building up a high-riser,” McGwyne said. Though what is planned for the 2,800 square-foot lot is still left up to conjecture. Kamran Hakim, who heads Hakim Organization, and who was named among the city’s worst landlords by the public advocate’s office in recent years, did not return a request for comment.
“I know how the neighborhood feels and I know how the locals feel but you’re not going to win with these guys,” McGwyne said.
Saying goodbye was difficult for many regulars, especially for those with a deep connection to the bar. Through heat waves, blackouts, snowstorms and Saint Patrick’s Days, O’Flanagan’s was a place for everlasting memories and good beer, a place for people to fall in love and return for subsequent wedding anniversaries. As McGwyne put it: “[There are] a lot of good stories in this place.”
“O’Flanagan’s was the first bar I ever went to legally,” said Kenny Mathieu, who started habitually visiting the tavern in 2012. “It’s the first bar I was a regular at. It was a major part of my college experience.” For many regulars, the live band karaoke and cover band concerts were an essential and unique part of the O’Flanagan’s experience.
“This place is home for us,” said Paul Briscoe, the bass player in the band Spoiled Rotten, which played O’Flanagan’s regularly for nearly 19 years. The band’s lead singer, Gia Piro, who is married to Briscoe, was similarly nostalgic.
“It’s going to be extremely emotional,” she remarked about the bar’s closing. “We are devastated.”
As a bar and relic of the Emerald Isle across the Atlantic, O’Flanagan’s will be missed. Its walls, adorned with a mural of Moore Street in Dublin, will remain on the sheetrock of the building, even during demolition. Everything else will stay in storage until the owners find a new location for the bar, which they are currently scouting for on the Upper East Side.
“It was a great voyage,” said Mcgwyne over beers on the eve of the bar’s final night. “Some wonderful people we met over the years and we had a good time. And sadly, it’s coming to an end.”
Mathieu echoed the sentiment. “It’s the end of an era,” he said.