Beers, Bras and Fried SeafoodMay 23, 2018
On an unusually warm Friday afternoon in April at Jeremy’s Ale House in the South Street Seaport, customers sipped beer from quart-size Styrofoam cups while “Jessie’s Girl” blared from the jukebox and the sun streamed in through the open windows. There was a distinct vacation feel in the air.
Michael J. McAliney, from Howard Beach, Queens, and Pat Carey, from New Hyde Park, New York, both retired engineers who used to work in the area and have been Jeremy’s regulars for 35 years, sat at a table and laughed. “We’re telling jokes and remembering old times,” Mr. McAliney said. “We used to be here two or three times a week when we were working, and we come back a few times a year and reminisce.”
Jeremy Holin, 71, the owner, walked over to the men and sat down, asking if he could join them. The regulars high-fived him.
The scene at Jeremy’s wasn’t this vibrant when the bar first opened in the early 1980s. Now the seaport is a lively area with residential buildings, restaurants and stores, but back then, it was downright desolate.
Patrons were slow to visit in the beginning, especially in the evening, when the area was empty and unsafe. Crime was common then, said Mr. Holin, who recalled calling the police one morning when he had to step over a dead body to get in the door.
In an attempt to drum up business during those early years, Mr. Holin started offering women $25 for their bras, which he would hang from the ceiling. Before long, crowds of 200 were waiting to get in on weekend nights. “We had to stop buying bras because we got so busy,” Mr. Holin said. To this day, the scrawled-upon ceiling exhibits bras of all colors and sizes.
In 1973, Mr. Holin got into the hospitality business on a whim. He and his wife, Cheryl, were walking around the seaport and saw opportunity. “The neighborhood had nothing except a flea market,” he said. “I hated my job in car sales, and I decided during that walk that I would quit and start a beer and sandwich stand.”
That stand, where he sold only hero sandwiches and Schaefer beer, ended up being so popular that he eventually opened a brick-and-mortar version on Front Street in 1981. The bar has moved several times since then but remains in the same vicinity, at 228 Front Street.
Despite its dive bar vibe, the drinks and food at Jeremy’s are far from shoddy. Fried seafood made with fresh, never-frozen clams, scallops and calamari are favorites, as is the hero sandwich from 1973. The potato chips and the tartar, cocktail and barbecue sauces are homemade, and there are 20 beers on tap.
Mr. Holin’s son Lee, 41, helps him run the bar in the city while his other son, Jason, 47, oversees the location in Freeport, Long Island, which the senior Mr. Holin opened 15 years ago.
Milton Amoroso, the manager, has been at Jeremy’s for 30 years. “Even if I don’t know everyone who comes here, I make them feel like I do,” Mr. Amoroso said.
“Hey, Milton, Jeremy,” said Matt Gammons, a lawyer who works nearby. “Where have you been? I haven’t seen you in a while.” Mr. Holin said he’d been in Florida for a few weeks. “But you know that I’m usually around.”
Mr. Gammons and his wife used to live a few blocks away from Jeremy’s and were regulars. They still come, sometimes with their three young children, even though they’ve moved to Port Washington, N.Y. “My kids love Jeremy’s,” he said. “They’re fans of the food.”
The lawyer proceeded to order a beer and a buffalo chicken sandwich. “I’ve just come from court,” he said. “And it’s a Friday. It’s time to unwind.”