Tag Archives: George O’Neill

O’Neill’s restaurant in Maspeth celebrates 80th anniversary


| lguerre@queenscourier.com

THE COURIER/Photo by Liam La Guerre

Janet Burt recalled she first went to O’Neill’s, the popular Maspeth bar and restaurant, when she was 19 years old.

So naturally Burt, 54, missed the eatery when she moved to Virginia, and much like the community was distraught to find out about the tragic fire two years ago, which caused O’Neill’s to close until this September.

When Burt heard about the neighborhood bistro’s 80th anniversary, she made sure to make the journey north to celebrate with old friends.

“When I heard about the 80th anniversary I said I had to show,” Burt said. “It’s awesome. It’s so different than it used to be. It was much smaller.”

Since the bar had its grand reopening, owners increased the size, expanded the fine dining menu, and added some more formal and private room space.

Councilmember Elizabeth Crowley hosted a party in one of the private rooms to thank her staff and supporters, before presenting a plaque and proclamation to the restaurant from the City Council for the anniversary Wednesday.

“Everybody knows there was a big fire and it took down the walls, but it could never take down the memory,” Crowley said. “We’re so glad to be here today and celebrate 80 years. O’Neill’s has never looked better.”

Civic leaders and community residents came in droves to O’Neill’s celebration. They congratulated owners, but also enjoyed the special deals.

Because O’Neill’s was founded in 1933, a day after Prohibition was repealed, numerous beers returned to their 10 cent price from that era from 6 p.m. to 9 p.m. Additionally, four special cocktails were half price.

There were also free roast beef sandwiches, which is an O’Neill’s tradition on Friday nights, and DJ Johnny Guerrero was spinning music that spanned eight decades.

“As you can see by the turnout tonight, the neighborhood is happy we’re back and we’re just looking for another 80 years,” O’Neill’s manager Danny Pyle said.

 

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Popular Maspeth restaurant O’Neill’s is back in business


| lguerre@queenscourier.com

THE COURIER/Photo by Liam La Guerre

Just about everyone in Maspeth remembers when O’Neill’s restaurant and bar was reduced to ashes after a grease fire in 2011.

It was a devastating moment for the community, as the popular bar has been a staple in the neighborhood since 1933.

After extinguishing the blaze, local firefighters found within the rubble, the American flag that had flown over the watering hole. They held on to it for more than two years and encased it in a plaque that was presented to the owners of O’Neill’s during the bar’s grand reopening on Friday.

“It’s nice that we are able to give a little something back to them,” said Captain Joe Gandiello of FDNY Rescue 4. “This place has been here for forever it seems and it’s just a nice touch. It’s all we can do.”

During the summer the owners were hinting at a comeback. They eventually had a soft opening for the bar a few weeks ago and delayed the full ceremony for September 27.  But even during the soft opening, the bar was packed.

“I’m not only happy for myself, I’m happy for the community, because evidently they have been waiting for us to open,” said owner George O’Neill. “The night we opened, when we opened the door you couldn’t get in here.”

Representatives from Councilmember Elizabeth Crowley and Congressmember Joe Crowley’s offices gave proclamations to the bar owners.

Just like it was before it was closed, the bar was bustling with so many local customers during its grand opening it was hard to walk around. Most came to the eatery because it was their favorite spot and to see old friends.

“It’s been gone for a long time,” said Tommy Young, a resident of Middle Village. “A lot of people used to get together here so I got to see a lot of people that I haven’t seen in a long time.”

Except for the fact that all the furniture and equipment is new, nothing has changed at O’Neill’s. There is still an area for fine dining, but also booths with mini TV screens for sports fans to watch what they want while they eat and of course the main bar in the center of the restaurant that anchors the bistro. The menu hasn’t change much either. There are still steaks, the popular Buffalo wings and brick-oven pizza.

There are more than 45 flat screen televisions around the bar and the owners have  added a catering room that can hold up to 200 people. They’ve also added a sprinkler system in the basement.

“Everything is pretty much brand new,” said manager Danny Pyle. “We’re thrilled to be able to serve the neighborhood. And they seem to feel the same way we do.”

 

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Following 2011 fire, O’Neill’s looks toward November reopening


| brennison@queenscourier.com

THE COURIER/photo by Billy Rennison

A white SUV pulled alongside George O’Neill as he sat next to the lot where his restaurant — O’Neill’s — is rising from the ashes.

“When are you going to open?”

This is what George O’Neill’s life has become.

The co-owner of the eponymous restaurant and bar sits outside the site that has been in his family for more than 80 years as it’s rebuilt ahead of a mid-November reopening date.

The passer-by in the white SUV was just a sample of O’Neill’s daily routine.

“I’m questioned every day. ‘When are you opening? Can we book a party?’” O’Neill said. “Evidently, it’s more important than I realized.”

The Maspeth fixture burned down on May 2, 2011 in a five-alarm blaze that needed more than 200 firefighters to extinguish.

O’Neill, who lives in Atlantic Beach, was staying in Maspeth that night.

“When I walked out I saw all the fire engines, I figured it was just a fire alarm,” said O’Neill who keeps a place in the neighborhood across the street from the restaurant. “And then all of a sudden, boom.”

Nothing was saved in the fire that burned for days.

More than 1,000 customers joined O’Neill outside the neighborhood fixture early that morning as the flames and word spread.

“I was mesmerized. I didn’t know what to think,” O’Neill remembered of his initial reaction to seeing his family’s place in flames. “It hit me a couple of days later. Oh my God, I’m out of a job.”

The bar has been in the family since 1928 when O’Neill’s father opened what was then called the Plateau Tavern.

As years passed, O’Neill began buying up the property surrounding the watering hole: a grocery store, a barber shop, a liquor store, a cleaners, a bakery, a delicatessen.

Following the fire and out of a job for the first time in his life, O’Neill got restless. He visited his daughters, but ended up back at the restaurant, setting up a table and chairs stationed under an umbrella to monitor the progress being made on the bar.

Frequenters will stop by for a coffee or a chat as O’Neill sits in waiting. Talking with the regulars is what he said he missed most about the bar.

Right now, O’Neill is biding his time on permits so the construction can continue.

He’s also waiting for an electric meter, but doesn’t expect one soon with Con Edison workers still locked out.

“It’s one thing after another,” he said. “When I think about it, it makes me sick. We’re in our 15th month since the fire.”

But O’Neill’s eyes light up when he discusses the plans for the reopened restaurant.

He pointed out where the 125-foot bar will stand and the catering space that can fit 300 patrons. And of course he mentions the dining fare.

“A lot of seafood, prime steaks, wings,” he said. “We’ve always had good food.”

November 13 has been set as the target date for the grand re-opening

“I’m looking forward to it tremendously.”