by Charlie Finnerty
O’Neill’s of Maspeth opened their doors the day prohibition ended in December 1933. They have been a staple of the community ever since, serving up drinks and pub fare to uncountable birthday parties, anniversaries, retirement parties, happy hours, funeral receptions and famously the New York Mets after their 1986 World Series win. The restaurant has been a family-owned establishment the whole way through with Tara O’Neill, granddaughter of the restaurant’s founder George O’Neill Sr. and daughter of long-time owner George Jr., as the current owner alongside her husband Danny Pyle. O’Neill’s celebrated 90 years in business Friday evening with a packed house of long-time patrons, live music, food and warm atmosphere offering refuge from the cold rainy December night outside.
Glenn Gallignano, one of the many Maspeth locals who have been regulars at O’Neill’s for decades, said O’Neill’s is a crucial part of the community.
“O’Neill’s is Maspeth, it’s a staple of the neighborhood. I’m 64 years old. This is the first place I drank — illegally and legally — back in the ‘70s,” Gallignano said. “90 years is a lot of years. It’s always a good time here and they treat you like home. It’s a neighborhood staple, they keep us all together.”
Pyle said the night saw a great turnout with long-time patrons of O’Neill’s across its generations of ownership coming out to celebrate the Maspeth institution.
“We had a lot of neighborhood people come in. Even people who have moved out of Maspeth came back,” Pyle said. “Being family owned and operated for three generations, people’s parents have come here, their grandparents, so we had just a nice good mix of people.”
Reflecting on the establishment’s long line of family owners, Gallignano said the O’Neill family’s role in Maspeth goes far beyond the walls of the restaurant.
“The late George [Jr.], he was the mayor of Maspeth,” Gallignano said.
In May 2011, the legendary bar burned to the ground after an uncontrollable grease fire in the kitchen.
“I remember it was the night they got Bin Laden,” Pyle said.
For over two years, the Maspeth community mainstay was lost until being reopened in September 2013.
“When this place burnt down, we were so sad,” Gallignano said. “We had no place to go because the whole neighborhood would gather in here.”
After a weekend of celebration, Pyle said the O’Neill’s team is looking forward to serving Maspeth for a long time to come.
“We’re looking forward to 90 more years of good times at O’Neill’s,” Pyle said.