By Jeff French Segall
Old friends and boisterous newcomers toasted the last night of Bourbon Street Bar on Saturday, which closed after 25 years at 407 Amsterdam Avenue between 79th and 80th Street.
The bar was packed for the final celebration, with raucous singing and dancing — some of it on top of the bar. Bourbon Street was a fixture on the avenue, a dive bar that offered 50-cent beer specials at a time when the neighborhood was getting more upscale.
Several people also milled around outside and reminisced. Raymond Curtis, who was taking a breather on the sidewalk with his husband, said he knew for a while that the bar was going to close and that he and his friends had shown up for one another. He said that Bourbon Street is much more than a bar. It’s also a social institution that has provided friendship and support to many of the students at Columbia University.
Raymond and many other denizens of Bourbon Street are veterans, having seen violent conflict in Iraq and Afghanistan. He said that one of the bartenders is a student and a veteran who has been supporting himself through college by bartending. Several of the bartender’s friends showed up to toast him and Bourbon Street.
Jason Gelfand, the owner of the bar, is himself a veteran and was also in the NYPD for five years before he opened the bar. Gelfand told us that his rent was going to rise to $26,000 from $16,000, and he couldn’t afford the increase. After closing he’ll focus completely on his other job as a contractor. A master carpenter, he loves designing and building furniture. Saturday was his last hurrah as a tavern owner. Tomorrow was another day. On Saturday, each in his and her own way said: Adieu, Bourbon Street, adieu.
Photos by Jeff French Segall.