BY JAMES WHITE
It’s happy hour, a little after 5 on a Thursday evening. There isn’t one free stool at the bar and only a couple empty seats at the tables. The sounds of laughter, conversation and sports talk fill the room above an undercurrent of classic rock ‘n’ roll. Most of the patrons have drifted in after another day at work. People walk through the doors and make their way down the bar, shaking hands, exchanging hugs and high-fives before finding their regular seats and stools. All around, the good cheer is palpable, much like the bright sunlight streaming in through the front windows. Sully, an accomplished joke-teller is at the taps while Ellie, a 20-something waitress, shuffles between the tables and bar with a smile on her face and a plate of chicken wings in her hand. On the surface, the scene appears typical — another snapshot of life inside of one of New York’s numerous taverns and bars but more observant viewers might recognize a difference. Indeed, this is no ordinary Irish bar — this is Tara Hill.
There is a culture inside Tara Hill that is homogenous yet multicultural at the same time. Homogenous, because the vibe is uniformly welcoming, friendly and tight. Multicultural, because of the eclectic clientele who socialize there. Puerto Ricans, Dominicans, African-Americans, Irish, Italians, Eastern Europeans, South Americans and Asians are all present. Doctors, lawyers, college professors, retired police officers, firemen and Wall Street types rub elbows, joke and exchange opinions with doormen, porters, students, office workers, house painters and couriers. The spirit inside can only be described as “New York.” As highrise apartment buildings continue to spring up everywhere, blotting out both sun and sky and the influx of big money and new inhabitants shows no signs of a slowdown, New Yorkers are now being divided and sequestered by socioeconomic mechanisms in ways that have been unseen in this town for more than 100 years. In effect, these mechanisms have stunted the fire beneath the melting pot. If left unchecked, those same mechanisms are sure to snuff it out. Points of contact — places where people of every socioeconomic stripe meet, talk and share experiences are dwindling at an alarming rate. Tara Hill is one of the city’s few remaining gems, a vital and important point of contact on the Upper West Side that has managed to hang on despite the onslaught. On the northeast corner of 108 Street and Broadway, Tara Hill is more than just an Irish bar and restaurant — it is one of the few places in this town that still harbors the spirit and experience that made New York the greatest city on earth. Stop in sometime and see for yourself. New York is in great need of more places that foster contact between the city’s varied groups. In the meantime, it is paramount to recognize and protect points of contact that still exist. They say there is strength in numbers, so come on down and join the conversation. Stop in for a burger or a beer, meet your neighbors and make new friends. There is a lot we can all learn from each other. That is a commodity no one can put a price on.