Tears and Beers as New York Seaport Pub Closes Doors

By Genevieve Belmaker, Epoch Times
February 24, 2014 Updated: February 24, 2014

NEW YORK—The era of one of South Street Seaport’s favorite neighborhood gathering spots has abruptly ended.

Meade’s, a pub owned by Lee Holin, closed its doors Sunday evening after eight years. The business was among those in the Lower Manhattan historic district that survived Superstorm Sandy—not every storefront reopened after the disaster.

Situated at 22 Peck Slip, the favorite haunt of neighborhood residents and workers was the first business in the area to reopen after the storm. Unfortunately, it has fared much worse against tenants willing to pay top dollar to operate on the riverfront. A major development project at Pier 17 and the area’s adjacent official historic district recently broke ground, and commercial space at the seaport has been increasing in value.

Bartender Nichole Osbourne said staff was called in to work on President’s Day and told the landlord had taken on a tenant willing to pay twice the rent and totally renovate the interior.

“Manhattan progress has reached the Seaport,” said a message posted on Meade’s Facebook page on Feb. 17.

Gathering Place

The slightly crusty, yet undeniably charming pub, with indoor and outdoor seating, was exactly the type of place you’d expect to find amid the centuries-old brick buildings and creaking antique ships of Manhattan’s waterfront. Though narrow and low-lit, the modest tables and dark wood bar provided several cozy corners. It also served a sophisticated range of beers and surprisingly elegant bar food.

Evidence of the more than 5-foot watermark from Sandy remained on the pub’s walls with a chalked-on note above it. Touches like that were part of the establishment’s charm.

Holin bought Meade’s from his father, Jeremy Holin, and has run the quaint, two-story spot with the help of a dedicated crew of about 10 bartenders and kitchen staff.

Staff was in shock last Wednesday night. But they busied themselves with shaking martinis, pouring beer, serving quesadillas, and hugging distressed customers.

“Meade’s to us is more than a job, more than just a place to hang out,” said Nichole Osbourne, who has been a Meade’s bartender for two and a half years. “Our hearts and souls are in it.”

Saying Goodbye

Chris Sanchez, a 39-year-old graphic designer who lives in Manhattan, frequented the pub regularly for several years.

“It’s a good vibe,” he said Wednesday as he sat drinking a beer at the bar. “It’s kind of a nice neighborhood bar, all the bartenders are friendly.”

Sanchez said some of his memories of Meade’s included watching the World Cup in the second-floor seating area and just hanging out with the low-key, mostly local crowd that frequented it. He said ,“It was kind of a shock” to hear about its closing.

The business will not be relocating.

Owner Lee Holin gave staff the choice to close without notice or stay open one week longer and say goodbye to customers. Staff chose the latter.

“I feel like my family has been ripped apart,” said Kathleen Joyce, who worked at Meade’s as a bartender for seven years.

Even as she stood outside the bar smoking a cigarette, loyal neighborhood customers passed by and gave her emotional hugs. For some, there were tears.

Inside, a notebook Joyce started for customers and friends to leave messages as a commemoration already had emotional notes in it. They included memories at Meade’s and poems.

One note was from a married couple who had been customers when they were single, and continued to come after their wedding.

“We will miss the lost evenings of our younger years when we arrived at 6 p.m. with friends and didn’t leave until 2 a.m. … with new friends,” read the message from the Gradys. “We will miss the bar that we brought our out-of-town wedding guests to. We will miss you.”