HOME
BLOG
BACKBAR
JUKEBOX
PUBLICAN'S PERCH
AD INFO
ABOUT US
CONTACT US
FREE SUBSCRIPTION
COCKTAILS
      BEHIND THE GREEN DOOR whitw logo
STORY BY DAVID McBRIDE PHOTOGRAPHY BY DAVID McBRIDE AND CHRIS POH

I don’t have the memory of my childhood that I wish I had.  My wife can remember every small detail, her 2nd grade teacher’s name, what she got for Christmas when she was seven, and so on.  That’s not me.  But December 8, 1980 is a date that will never leave me.  That’s the day John Lennon was killed outside his home in Manhattan.

I will never forget, even as a child, how much his death crushed my mother and her sister.  They were crying for someone they never met, but it was tears of pain and love.  Why were they so moved by this man’s murder?  I knew who he was, but I never really understood what he meant.  From that moment on my curiosity for John Lennon took over.  A reverence soon grew and it remains today.  He is a major reason why I became a musician,  and 27 years later, even in adulthood, I look to his music and words as a source of inspiration or comfort.

So when someone told me the EAR INN in Manhattan’s SoHo was once a favorite hangout of my hero, I had to go there.  I had to sit at the bar he sat and walk on the floor he once stood.  I can’t say I expected to have some epiphany or even experience some insight into Lennon’s motivations.  I just had to say I was there.


OVERHEARD ABOUT THE EAR


"Intimate, charmingly seedy and evocative of another century."
- Newsday Magazine, 1982

"A dump with dignity…"
- NY Times, 1994

"Last of the neighborhood places…"
- George Peck, Downtown Express, 1995

"What a friendly bar! They even know their ghost by name."
- Daily News, 1996

"A breeding ground of urban myths."
- Kate Sekules, New York Magazine, 1997

"The House relies on the kindness of neighbors for structural and spiritual support."
- David  Firestone, NY Times, 1998

"The neighborhood-in-all-but-name's defining institution."
-
Doug Cooper, NY Times, 2000

"Garnering the endearment of poets and plumbers alike, the crowd at the Ear is eclectic on the verge of miscellaneous, yet utterly at ease with its disparities."
- Melissa Robbins, Downtown Express, 2000

"The antithesis of slick… seafarers in need of divey relief and homemade grub call it a great place to have one more and beg all to lend an ear."
- Zagat Survey, 2001

“...the ceilings are not too low for a stunted bow legged seadog ... kept dark to protect the innocent.”
- NY Sun, 2002

est. 1817 A.D.


I’m not sure what I expected to find when I reached this place.  My mind was more focused on seeing what it is Lennon would have liked.  I thought of all the times I saw him with a drink.  I’ve never seen a beer in his hands, so this must not be a shot and beer joint.  Was it a typical upscale Manhattan martini bar?  Is this the type of place you needed to dress well to get in?  Some place where the bouncer only lets the “in” folks through the door?

But like nearly everything in New York, the EAR INN was full of surprises.  When you see the pub from a block away, you can tell this is an unusually old building for this part of town.  From the plaque outside, you are told this building is called the James Brown House and that it was built in 1817.  It also sits on what once was the Hudson River shore, another fact marked outside, but the river is now a couple of blocks away.  Surprisingly in almost 200 years neither the river nor the city’s development seems to have scarred it in the least.



For more on the heritage and and legends
of THE JAMES BROWN HOUSE

www.jamesbrownhouse.com


James Brown was supposedly an African-American Revolutionary War veteran and an aide to George Washington.  According to legend, he is he pictured  on the famous Emanuel Leutze painting of the Delaware River crossing, but no one can say for sure.  How this man’s house, a man who has all but slipped out of the history books, has survived nearly centuries of development in Manhattan is a wonder


WASHINGTON CROSSING THE DELAWARE by Emanuel Leutz as seen in American Public House Review
WASHINGTON CROSSING THE DELAWARE BY EMANUEL LEUTZ


When I walked in every expectation was crumpled up and thrown onto Spring Street.  It is neither the chic Manhattan nightclub, nor a historically preserved landmark.  It’s just a dark, small, crowded pub that bustles with the same type of excitement it probably had when it operated as a favorite hangout for dock workers or when it nobly served as a speakeasy.

The plaque outside was perhaps the only thing that made us feel we were in some historic landmark.  From the bar, it is simply a bar.  It is totally devoid of anything resembling cliché and looks nothing like a museum or re-creation.  But it seems to represent its history as a speakeasy and dockside retreat by keeping that same feeling alive.  The ceilings are low and the light is dim.  It is the perfect place for someone like Lennon to sink out of the spotlight and blend in with a crowd that probably has more to think about than him



Plaque at the EAR INN in NYC as seen in American Public House Review
PLAQUE MARKING THE HUDSON'S FILLED-IN
SHORELINE WHERE THE EAR NOW STANDS


Believe it or not, I never actually verified if this was indeed a favorite hangout of John Lennon.  The place was so unassuming and haunting that it didn’t seem to matter anymore.  The EAR INN has a character all its own.  It doesn’t need to stand on the backs of those who loved it to make others love it as well, and it doesn’t need to advertise its sorted history to get anyone’s attention.  Its own blend of history, ambience and uniquely New York character takes care of that.

Poodle announcement as seen in American Public House Review





The Ear Inn as seen in American Public House Review
THE EAR INN


The bar at the Ear Inn in NYC as seen in American Public House Review
THE BAR AT THE EAR INN


Ear Inn in NYC as seen in American Public House Review
HISTORY ABOUNDS IN THIS BAR ROOM AS DO RUMORS OF GHOSTS


Ear Inn botttles as seen in American Public House Review
ANCIENT BOTTLES DUG UP DURING A BASEMENT EXCAVATION



The sign at The Ear Inn as seen in American Public House Review


Before and throughout prohibition, and for decades afterward, this spirited pub located in the James Brown House had no official name but 'BAR' as its minimalist neon sign announced to the world. But it was affectionately known as the 'GREEN DOOR' by the cognoscente because of its identifying green entrance. The 'BAR' gained notoriety around the world thanks to the word spread by wayfaring sailors whom patronized the place when they were in town. Illicit activities were not unheard of and women were not welcome through the dark green doors . . . nor would most women probably even want to enter.

Then in 1977, new owners transformed the 'BAR' into a fun pub for everyone with a focus on music performance. And they finally gave it a name. The building is a NYC registered landmark and to avoid sign replacement complications with the Landmark Committee, the proprietors simply painted over part of the old sign's neon letter, 'B' in  the word, 'BAR' to form the pub's new name; 'THE EAR.' The new moniker went well with its growing reputation as a great  place to enjoy some live jazz or a song with your adult libation.




Ear's green door as sen in American Public House Review





sculpture at the EAR INN in NYC as seen in American Public House Review




EAR INN

326 SPRING STREET
NEW YORK,  NEW YORK  10013


(212) 226-9060


www.earinn.com

GET DIRECTIONS



HOME
BLOG
BACKBAR
JUKEBOX
PUBLICAN'S PERCH
AD INFO
ABOUT US
CONTACT US
FREE SUBSCRIPTION
COCKTAILS