Dimly lit, very smoky, and smelling like cheap beer, Blarney Stones used to be all over New York City—hideaways for working men who wanted to drink, and maybe catch a ball game and have a corned beef sandwich.
They were the brainchild of Irish immigrant Daniel Flanagan, whose first Blarney Stone opened on Third Avenue and 44th Street in 1952.
“Mr. Flanagan would generally bring in a new partner in each bar and grill, share in the development, and then move on to another,” reported The New York Times in Flanagan’s 1991 obituary. “At his death, he was directly involved in the ownership and management of three Blarney Stone restaurants.”
At one time, there were 34 Blarney Stones in Manhattan, according to this AMNY article.
“Generally blue-collar, working man’s bars, the Blarneys were known for their traditional Irish food, cheap prices and tight-knit community,” writes Tim Herrera. “Most patrons were tradesmen, and few women entered.”
“But as the leases on the original Stones ended in the 1980s and ’90s, the owners sold them off, and today there are about five left in the city,” he adds.
This one, on Ninth Avenue in the 20s, appears to be going strong, as is the Blarney Stone on Eighth Avenue near Madison Square Garden, sporting the neon sign at the top.
And a few of its imitators—Blarney Cove on East 14th Street, I’m looking at you—are also still pulling in drinkers.