For the past 81 years, O’Connor’s Bar, on Fifth Avenue between Bergen and Dean Streets, was a simple, no-frills watering hole with a fiercely loyal clientele and a just-as-fierce devotion to keeping the past intact.
It was one of the last establishments in the city with a working phone booth, tap lines were never installed, the naugahide booths and stools were held together with duct tape, and it exuded that dive bar charm in the best way possible. Warts and all, it was one of the best bars in the city, and a venerable old time capsule.
All that began to change several years ago when current owner Mike Maher took over; he brightened up the place a bit and gave it a thorough scrubbing, but other than that he essentially left it alone (all good). He had big plans, though, to transform the space into a full-on sports bar/ “Irish pub”, with a large back room, a private party room on the new second floor, and a full food menu. Construction on the addition has been underway for over a year, the sign was removed and the bar got a coat of forbidding black paint last year, and it was clear that one day the entire bar would have to be shut down, renovated, and brought up to code in order to serve food.
Well, that day has arrived. The bar is locked tight, the phone lines have been shut off, the staff let go, and work is underway to incorporate the new additions and bring the old bar into the 21st century, whatever that entails.
Most likely O’Connor’s will be open in time for Labor Day, and to attract crowds on their way to and from the Barclays Center. As for what else the future holds for the old bar, only time will tell.