McSorley’s Ale House was established in 1854 and its sawdust strewn floors and history patched walls will take you to a journey back in time. It is still a place of art and literature, and at one point even a supreme court controversy.
McSorley’s Old Ale House
This Irish-style tavern in the heart of the East Village is one of the oldest in the city. Aged artwork and retro memorabilia, most of which have cryptic origins, provide an ambiance of “ye olde New York.” The bar opened in the late 1800s with a motto of “Good Ale, Raw Onions, and No Ladies.” Indeed, women were not admitted inside until 1970, and even then, McSorley’s was far from happy about it. Over the years they’ve welcomed many notables, including U.S. Presidents and famous authors. People such as Abe Lincoln and John Lennon have in fact visited the saloon. But history doesn’t end there. The American singer and songwriter Woodrow Guthrie, known for inspiring generations both politically and musically, influenced the union movement from one of the front tables. Maybe if you are lucky enough, you can enjoy a beer at the same table where this UK far-right political party sparked.
However, not everyone was equally welcome here. Faith Seidenberg and Karen DeCrow, two civil rights attorney had to take their case to the Supreme Court to gain access to the ale house. The newspaper writing about this historic day can still be found in the front room of the saloon. Even though women had access to the saloon from the 70s, there was still one small problem: no women’s bathroom. It was not installed until 1986, and no woman worked at the bar until 24 years later after the Supreme Court’s ruling.
Thought the history lesson was over? No, there’s more! There was nothing that could stop McSorley’s, not even the 18th amendment that banned the production, transportation and sales of alcoholic beverages. They simply moved their operations to the basement until the Prohibition era came to an end. It is today referred to as the legendary backroom.
Further more, in the late 20th Century the McSorley’s Ale was for the first time made without New York’s legendary water. It can today be found throughout the East, and of course at McSorley’s Old Ale House (where you might find it tastes a little bit different!).
The only thing that’s left for you to do, is to make the decision of where you want to enjoy your glass of Ale. Where the union movement first started, reading the newspaper that changed the saloon forever or in the backroom pretending to be back in the 1920s!