The Ear Inn.

Without question, the Ear Inn on Spring Street pours the best pint of Guinness this side of the Atlantic. Thick, dark, creamy, absolutely perfect. And for almost two decades, the writers of this website have loved imbibing at this dark little tavern that the New York Times once christened, “a dump with dignity.” And whether you’re new in town or have been here since birth, pretty much everyone has a story or two to tell from an outing at this old pub in West Soho. But like many old places in our city, this Federal style building has its own story to tell.Ear Inn TodayBuilt sometime before 1812, the house at 326 Spring Street was originally the home of James Brown, an African-American United States Revolutionary War veteran. Brown originally ran a tobacco store on the ground floor of the house, but in 1817 he opened a tavern in the space. Hard to imagine, but at that time in the city’s development the house was only five feet from the existing shoreline of the Hudson. Naturally, the proximity of booze made the establishment instantly popular with the legions of sailors, stevedores and longshoremen that worked along the river.ei-4In 1890, the house was sold to an Irish immigrant named Thomas Cloke, who ran the tavern and sold beer and spirits to ships passing through New York’s harbor. Cloke ran the business there for almost 30 years, but seeing the handwriting on the wall with the Eighteenth Amendment, sold it in 1919 and got the hell out. However, business remained brisk: during Prohibition the pub/restaurant became a speakeasy, while the upstairs floors were variously a boarding house, a headquarters for smugglers, and a brothel. The bar re-opened for business (legally) once Prohibition was repealed, but it now existed without a name. It was simply called “The Green Door,” and catered to a fragrant clientele of dock laborers and wharfies, almost all of whom were hard-drinking regulars. Women weren’t allowed (and probably didn’t want to go there anyway.) And so life continued in this swashbuckling fashion until the mid 20th century, when urban blight and decay turned the once-bustling area into a nearly abandoned district.Ear Inn Over the YearsIn the mid 1970s, a group of struggling artists purchased the building, and they reopened the bar in 1977. Due to Landmarks restrictions on changing signage, the new proprietors simply painted out part of the letter B in the “Bar” sign, thus turning it into the word “Ear”, which was the name of a music magazine published upstairs. And thus it has been the Ear Inn ever since: a cozy home for the perfect pint and a real conversation.EAR

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