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An ignoble end for Brooklyn’s ‘oldest bar’

The Brooklyn Paper
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City marshals seized the supposed oldest bar in Brooklyn on Nov. 14, closing the latest chapter in the tavern’s troubled recent history.

The takeover of Goldenrod in Carroll Gardens returned the storefront to its owners after barkeep James McGown made big changes inside without clearing them with the city, according to a lawyer for the landlords.

“He breached his lease by making substantial alterations without getting consent from the building owner or the Department of Buildings,” said Donald Bernstein, who represents owners John and Kim Esposito.

McGown opened Goldenrod at Court Street and Fourth Place in August of 2013, six months after declaring bankruptcy and closing the bar in the same spot known for 20 years as P.J. Hanley’s.

The embattled businessman had clashed with his landlords in court even before the bar’s name change, paying rent only sporadically, Bernstein said. In court filings, McGown has blamed thieving managers and delayed building repairs for his cash-flow problems.

The alleged illegal alterations would not have been the first. The building has an outstanding violation for un-permitted work dating to 2007, property records show.

The building owners began eviction proceedings shortly after the bar reopened as Goldenrod and Bernstein claims McGown ignored a court order to keep paying rent. The marshals who swooped in last week changed the locks, spelling the end for McGown, Bernstein said.

“This has been going on a long time, but he is done,” Bernstein said.

The bar first opened in 1874 as Ryan’s, and managed to survive Prohibition as a speakeasy with covered windows and hidden entrances. John Hanley bought the pub in the 1950s and ran the place until he sold it to his nieces in 1995. They kept the bar going for nine years before selling the business to McGown in 2005.

McGown owns many other businesses in the neighborhood and his financial woes and tangled legal battles have earned him the moniker of “bankruptcy baron” from the finance journal Crain’s New York Business.

A number listed for McGown rings to a message saying that it is disconnected.

Reach reporter Noah Hurowitz at nhurowitz@cnglocal.com or by calling (718) 260–4505. Follow him on Twitter @noahhurowitz
Updated 10:17 pm, July 9, 2018
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