Historic NYC Bar White Horse Tavern Feuds With Neighbors About Pandemic Behavior

New tensions at the space after a 2019 change in ownership

White Horse Tavern
The outside of the historic White Horse Tavern in 2019.
Stephanie Keith/Getty Images

Few bars and restaurants in New York City have the storied history — or the literary cachet — of the White Horse Tavern. The last few years have been a tumultuous time for the space: Eytan Sugarman became its owner in 2019, which was not without some controversy. The decor remained the same, though the menu went through some changes — albeit ones which received positive notices at the time.

The pandemic has made life for most bars and restaurants in New York City, and across the country, much more complicated. The White Horse Tavern is no exception, and a new article by Allie Conti at Grub Street explores how the pandemic has brought back old tensions and sparked some new ones.

The article opens with a description of a White Horse Tavern in high demand on Halloween. “All the tables are booked through closing time — even for people who claim to come to the bar every Saturday,” Conti writes. This has led to conflict between the bar’s owner and neighbors, some of whom have had unpleasant encounters with White Horse customers.

The White Horse Tavern had its liquor license temporarily suspended over the summer. Since then, Conti writes that some of the same locals who in years past had supported the bar staying open were now calling for its closure. “Andrew Berman, the executive director of the Greenwich Village Society for Historical Preservation, led the charge to establish the White Horse’s interior as a historic landmark last year,” Conti notes. “Then, throughout the summer and fall of 2020, he started getting requests for help from locals who wanted to shut down the bar entirely.”

The article gives a good sense of the positions of both Sugarman and his rivals. Through it, Conti offers a distinctive variation on the issues facing bars and restaurants right now — one that comes with plenty of history.

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