Another old-man bar bites the dust as O’Connor’s gets pre-Nets makeover

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Fifth Avenue’s beloved old-man bar, O’Connor’s, will get a makeover and expansion just in time for the Barclays Center to open a couple blocks away — but the owner says his loyalties are to longtime customers, not the thousands of sports fans who will fill the arena next year.

Come summertime, the no-frills dive will be expanded to include an upstairs restaurant with seating that serves “good, off-the-bone Irish-American food” and — for the first time — beer on tap. It will be three times bigger and one story taller.

“We’re trying to keep the old look, but modernize it a bit,” said owner Mike Maher, who has run the bar, near Dean Street, for three years.

Maher said that the renovation and retooling had nothing to do with the 19,000-seat arena rising one block away, but the arena is sure to draw a crowd of sporty types from outside Park Slope to a place that’s now only popular with a small band of regulars.

And some of those elbow-benders are disappointed.

“It might be premature to mourn the loss of one of one of New York’s last real dive bars, but it seems like there won’t be that same run-down feeling,” said Dan Myers, who founded the blog, Here’s Park Slope.

Even a bartender admitted this week that “the vibe might change” in a bar that was founded in 1934, and hasn’t changed through World War II, the white flight of the 1950s, the urban turmoil of the 1960s, the gentrification of the 1990s and even having tortured-genius musician Elliott Smith pen part of his fourth album, “XO,” under those dim barroom lights in 1997, when drug dealers still outnumbered strollers in the neighborhood. (Smith carved some scrawl into one of the booths.)

It wouldn’t be the first time the Atlantic Yards project disturbed the peace at a beloved neighborhood watering hole. Last spring, Freddy’s Bar was bulldozed, though the bar reopened in the South Slope — and retains most of its original style and character.

The difference, Maher says, is that his bar isn’t going anywhere, and not trying to do much more than serve simple, old-fashioned corned beef sandwiches. The bar will retain its old wooden phone booth — and its before-noon opening hour.

As such, not everyone is upset.

“The times, they are a changing,” said regular John Lonergan. “You must go with the flow. When I used to come here more than 20 years ago, it was all Korean War vets. The Old Guard is gone. Now it’s all Yuppies.”

O’Connor’s [39 Fifth Ave. at Dean Street in Park Slope, (718) 783-9721].

Updated 5:23 pm, July 9, 2018
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Reasonable discourse

Larry from ParkSlope says:
Prohibition lasted from 1920 to 1933. O'Connors was "founded" in 1934. How does its "founding" in 1934 make it a "Prohibition era" bar?

The most that can be said about its "era" is that it is an "early-post-Probibiltion era" bar. Got that?
March 2, 2011, 2:38 pm
Joe Z. from Greenpoint says:
Knowledge is power, Larry. Most reporters are powerless.
March 2, 2011, 8:51 pm
Heywood says:
The title of this story should be “Young Yuppie Blogger Bemoans Death of ‘Old Man’ Bar.”
March 7, 2011, 12:48 am
Al from Park Slope says:
Ya Gotta love this neighborhood. Everyone who is "up in arms" that the bar may modernize probably have never set foot in the place. So the 6 drunks that get there before noon may have to go someplace else to be drunk by 1 PM. I love these people who dont own businesses yet tell the people who do what they should do with their business investment.

If you have so many opinions on how a person who owns a business should run or decorate their place, then why not compete with them if your ideas or so much better and own your own darn place.
March 7, 2011, 9:10 am
Donald from South Slope says:
A little respect please! The point is the cost of change, and what constitutes loss to a neighborhood. Is there merit in things that hold memories, in ghost catchers. I was a bartender at O'Connors back in the early 90's, and I have to say that things in the neighborhood are better now than then.... but just barely. There was a rugged honesty to old park slope, and yet the brownstones were affordable. and more importantly the members of the community back then would NOT have found it difficult to just lower there head and quietly respect the end of a era. Only those who experienced OC's Know how great OC's was and specifically the impact Pat O'Connor had on this hood back in it's frontier days.
June 25, 2012, 3:05 pm
Rich from Planet Earth says:
It is sad, but like all things, It has to end. What made this place special was Pat O'Connor, the last of his generation of bartenders.
He took his craft seriously to the end. From washing his glasses to serving drinks. Everyone was treated fairly. What else can you ask for ? So when Pat O'conner & Charlie Campbell past away, so did an era of Bartending. Things gone in the last fifty five years, The Dodgers, daily news, Freddys, O'Conners.......ETC
July 19, 2012, 3:54 pm

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