McSorley’s Old Ale House

On January 25, 2013 by Lauren Biegler

Established in 1854, McSorley’s Ale House boasts being the oldest continuously operated saloon in New York City. The bar is a New York staple with notable historic patrons including: Abraham Lincoln, Babe Ruth, Teddy Roosevelt and John Lennon. The saloon is famous for serving only beer, light or dark, and for being an old boys club until 1970 when a court order insisted females be permitted to enter the establishment.

Despite being a landmark attraction, McSorley’s has mainted its Irish roots. When you enter the bar, there is sawdust covering the floor and the walls are plastered with dusty framed newspaper clippings. There are relics covering the bar, including wishbones that WWI soldiers hung on a lamp above the bar before leaving for war, and would break when they returned. The chicken-bones that are there today are reminders of the men who did not make it back from battle…

In true Irish fashion, McSorley’s takes drinking very seriously. The bar is cash only, and serves 2 mugs of beers, dark or light, for $5. The food menu is equally straightforward: Corned Beef, Burger, Hash, Liverwurst and Mashed Potatoes. The staff still adorns their traditional garb of a grey blazer and white T-shirt, and are adamant about making sure you are drinking if you are sitting at a table. McSorley’s is a great spot Weekday spot to hit with friends, a deck of cards, and a rowdy attitude.


History of McSorley’s:

The bar was founded by John McSorley, an Irish immigrant who fled the motherland in 1851 via The Colonist ship from Liverpool. After three years in New York, he founded the ale house at 15 East 7th Street, the same location as today, and called it “The Old House at Home.” Shortly after opening the ale house, McSorley married and had 3 children, all of whom lived above the bar. After running McSorley’s for 56 years, John McSorley died in 1910 at 83 years old.

After John McSorley’s death, his middle child and favorite son, William McSorely, took over the ale house and began to make it a shrine to his departed father. Bill ran the bar seamlessly until 1920 when prohibition began, outlawing beer, ale, wine and liquor, forcing McSorely’s to serve “near beer.” The ale house was able to survive the liquor ban and it was lifted in 1933 , allowing the bar to continue in its traditional fashion of “Good ale, Raw Onions, and No Ladies.”


In 1936, the ale house left the McSorely family line for the first time in history when William McSorely sold it to Daniel O’Connel, a patron and NYC policeman, who changed little about the bar. By 1939, both O’Connell and William McSorely had died, leaving the bar to the owner’s daughter, Dorothy O’Connell, who quickly passed the responsibility of running the male-only bar to her husband, Harry Kirwan.

The ale house continued to be ran by Dorothy O’Connell and Harry Kirwan, who had a son that began apprenticing at the bar at a young age. While away in Ireland in 1964, Harry Kirwan’s car broke down and he was rescued by Matthew Maher who was promised a job in NYC for his act of kindness. Maher moved to NYC and worked closely with O’Connell family when the bar was court-ordered to start serving women in 1969. In order to pay respect to the owner of the bar, Dorothy was offered the first beer, which she refused honoring her promise to her father.

Dorthy O’Connell died in 1974 following quickly by her husband in 1975 who left the bar to his son, Danny Kirwan. Danny managed the bar until 1977 when Matthew Maher, the night manager, bought the place, switching the family-heritage for the third time. Matthew Maher owns and and operates the bar today.

McSorley’s Old Ale House

(212) 474-9148

15 East 7th Street NY, NY 10003

Monday – Saturday: 11AM – 1AM

Sunday: 1PM – 1AM


5 Stars 


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