“I’d love to keep it open, but there’s only so much business you can generate,” said Bermingham last week.
Since his pub opened in 1995, Bermingham has seen the closure of around ten Irish bars in Flushing, and many more around Queens.
“I came here in 1990 when there were plane loads of Irish coming every day,” he said.
“It used to be busy every night. When I opened the bar first, there were 15 Irish families in the buildings across the street, now there’s one. There are no new Irish coming over here. There’s no new business.”
Irish bars have been an institution in New York since the time of the famine. Their level of prosperity has always been a key indicator of the overall size and level of activity in the city’s Irish community.
In recent years however, the highly documented wave of return immigration to Ireland, combined with an increasing tendency amongst young Irish travelers to snub the U.S. in favor of immigrant-friendly countries like Australia has proved a crushing blow to their client base.
“Every year there’s a batch of new customers turning 21 and moving to New York, and that batch is shrinking,” said according to Se_n Murphy, founder of New York-based events website murph.com
“The economy and the crackdown on immigration have affected Irish bars. In the early ’90’s there was a glut of Irish bars, and they were all packed. Now, you have the same amount of bars half empty.”
In Bermingham’s view, the client base for Irish bars is literally dying out.
“There’s a lot of older Irish people, but young people are the big spenders,” he said.
“The truth is that a lot of our afternoon drinkers died, and no one replaced them. “We were getting more Asian than Irish customers – unfortunately, they don’t drink as much.”
In Queens, home to some of New York’s oldest and largest Irish-American communities, most bar owners are reluctant to admit how much business they have lost.
But a glance around the half empty lounges provides ample evidence.
“We really haven’t seen any changes – business is much the same,” according to the owner of “Se_n