Where Everybody Knows Your Name and Accepts Your Politics
Credit Casey Kelbaugh for The New York Times
The wall on the left side of Neary’s, a green-canopied Irish restaurant and bar on East 57th Street that will celebrate its 50th anniversary next year, is covered with framed photos of politicians considered liberal: Hillary and Bill Clinton, Ted Kennedy, Chris Dodd, Hugh Carey and Michael Bloomberg. Rudy Giuliani, perhaps surprisingly, is up there, too.
On the right wall are George Bush the elder and the younger, Dick Cheney and Ronald Reagan. Though Donald J. Trump he has been a patron, he is not yet on either wall.
But since Mr. Trump, the president-elect, announced his candidacy 500-odd days ago, the bar has served as a refuge, a safe space for that rare creature: a Trump supporter in New York City.
“One hundred percent, it’s why I spend so much time in here,” Christophe Lirola, an investment banker, said while seated at the bar drinking a beer. “I love having conversations with people about politics, and many places you can’t really do that because then it’s like the wolves surrounding the sheep.”
On Mr. Lirola’s right, Mark Guest, a security consultant who looks after celebrities and fashion designers, said he didn’t vote for Mr. Trump but plans to give him a chance.
Credit Casey Kelbaugh for The New York Times
“What’s the Show Me state, Missouri?” Mr. Guest said. “I think we are a country of ‘show me.’ You made a claim? It might have been audacious, like P. T. Barnum — you’re a salesman, a huckster, a hustler, a barker? O.K. You made a claim? Prove us wrong. That’s what our democracy’s about.”
Kevin Philzone, known as Duffy, began bartending at Neary’s right after Elaine’s, a joint of equal repute, closed in 2011. He said that he was behind Trump from the very beginning — and shocked when he won. “I told everybody I thought it was going to be really hairy, really close,” he said.
Mr. Philzone met Mr. Trump a couple of times at Elaine’s and said he even witnessed him behaving in a “crass” manner. “But if you work in construction, you’ve got to have that in your repertoire,” he said. “It’s part of your game.”
A suave older gent, Lee Peck, was sitting by himself at the end of the bar and looking amused. Mr. Peck, a retired banker, has been going to Neary’s since the early 1970s. “We used to come up here Friday nights after work and sit at the bar,” he said. “A lot of Friday nights. It’s a great watering hole, a lot of good people.”
Mr. Peck, though a longtime conservative, voted for Hillary Clinton. “Trump just turned me off, but he’s president, so I have to root for him. So hopefully he’s going to be O.K.,” he said, and then gestured toward the owner of the bar, Jimmy Neary. “Jimmy loves him. He’s always been a big Trump guy.”
“Yes, I like Donald Trump,” said Mr. Neary, 85, who bears some resemblance to Clarence, the angel in “It’s a Wonderful Life.” He was sitting in one of the red leather corner banquettes and remembering how Mr. Trump’s relatives and friends have been visiting his establishment since the era when Mr. Trump was dating Marla Maples and palling around with Frank and Kathie Lee Gifford. “To me, he’s an absolute gentleman,” Mr. Neary said. “That’s all I can say for him.”
Though happy to talk politics, he didn’t mind returning the subject to his restaurant, which opened on St. Patrick’s Day in 1967.
“The first year was mediocre, not bad,” he said. “And then I came in here one evening at 6 o’clock, it was a nice crowd here, and I heard customers at the bar saying, ‘He doesn’t know who’s here.’ Quietly, I disappeared and went into the kitchen and looked out of the glass window, and who was sitting in the corner? John Glenn. And I said to myself, ‘If I wasn’t in business another week, I still had the first man to orbit the earth in my restaurant.’” (Well, the first American, anyway.)
Gov. Hugh Carey was one of the first politicians to become a regular, back when he had just started his seven-term Congressional run. The Kennedys came, and the Clintons, and Mayor Bloomberg, who took Mr. Neary to Ireland on his private jet to visit the village where the proprietor was born.
Kareem Abdul-Jabbar has been there, too. Gay Talese went for dinner recently. Mary Higgins Clark is a regular, and Mr. Neary has shown up as a character in 21 of her novels and even solves a murder in one.
With his wife of 40 years, Eileen (“now in heaven”), he raised four children. His daughter Una Neary is at the restaurant on the weekends, usually in a hostess role but always available to fill in as a waitress, if needed. She is also a partner at Goldman Sachs, the head of bank holding company compliance.
On Veterans Day at the bar, Ms. Neary recognized the country’s servicemen and women, then added: “Today is also another extra special day because on 11/11/1954, is when my father came to America.”
The place erupted with cheering and clapping. Then Ms. Neary asked everyone to sing “God Bless America,” which they did with gusto.
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