On a recent Monday evening, the Subway Inn was packed with workers who had just punched off clock and were nursing beers or stiff drinks. Heavy metal music blared overhead as the locals debated the looming end of their favorite bar and the future of cheap watering holes in a city where rent prices continue to soar.
“This is the last affordable bar for the working man,” Kevin Henry, a Subway Inn regular, said as he sipped a beer. “They are squeezing out the middle class.”
Ashley Montes, another regular said, the Subway Inn was the only bar in the area were blue collar workers can grab a drink. “If they close this out for a place that we can’t afford, it will be very depressing,” she said.
Located on the Upper East Side, across from Bloomingdale’s, the Subway Inn with its neon lights and peeling walls is a window into another New York, when dive bars were plentiful and the city affordable.
The Subway Inn opened in 1977 and has boasted such famous patrons as Marilyn Monroe. Today, the bar is full of “Save Subway Inn” posters hanging from the walls and behind the bar of establishment.
Marcellos Salinas, the current owner started working at the bar 40 years ago. He took over after the original owner Charlie Ackerman died. The Salinas family battling with the development firm World-Wide Holdings Corporation, who owns the building and its storefronts, and plans to turn it into luxury housing.
“This is our home,” Steven Salinas, 34, said. “It was Charlie’s last dying wish, to keep the bar open.”
The Salinas family has taken the fight to court and the press, making public appearances and campaigning on social media to raise funds for lawyer fees and to start a petition to save the historic bar.
Monday, the Subway Inn got a much welcomed break— the New York City Civil Court granted a temporary order to cease all eviction proceedings, slated for August 20.
“This is a David vs. Goliath fight, the little people against the big people,” Salinas said. “It’s a small thing. Hoping for more to come.”
World-Wide Holdings purchased the building in 2006 and said that they have allowed the Salinas family to operate the bar with a short-term lease with the understanding that a development would someday take place there.
“Over the past eight years, the bar’s operators have continued to sign one year leases with a 30 day termination option, each time recognizing that the site would eventually be used for development,” a statement from World-Wide Holdings read.
Local life-long resident Ariel Gideon, 43, a personal trainer, has frequented the Subway Inn since the 1980s. He said the dive bar was a reality check in a city obsessed with glamour.
“It gives you a feeling of old New York – dive bars and bar flies,” Gideon said as he nursed a whiskey. “You didn’t have to dress up, nobody cared what kind of a car you drove. Everyone in this kind of bar was equal.”