One year and nine months since closing for a renovation, a completely rebuilt O'Connor's bar soft-opened yesterday (the official opening is today), with an entirely new look and a new name: McMahon's Public House.
Owners Mike and Jimmy McMahon, who purchased the classic dive bar (on 5th between Bergen and Dean) a few years ago from the descendants of original owner Dominic O'Connor, decided to rename the bar in honor of their late father, and if you thought that the new bar would bear any resemblance to its beloved predecessor, think again: it's more than tripled in size, is gleaming, has an extensive draft beer selection, and is anything but a dive.
The old bar hadn't had any major upgrades since first opening back in 1931, meaning that while it was a veritable time machine there were no draft lines and a crumbling infrastructure (a back wall collapsed in the earliest days of the renovation). "If it was still the way it was, the roof would have collapsed this winter because of all the snow," Mike told me. "We salvaged as much as we could, but honestly there wasn't much we could do. We tried to save the bar itself but it was worm-eaten."
A handful of decorative touches remain from O'Connor's, including a giant moose's head with a bra still hanging off of it, an old wall clock, and (miraculously) the old phone booth, which has been refurbished and installed in the downstairs room with a working pay phone. A small section of the rear brick wall was also left intact.
Once you make your peace with the fact that the O'Connor's we knew and loved is long-gone, you'll notice that the new bar is one of the biggest in the neighborhood, and is comfortable and nicely appointed. The front room lets in a ton of natural light and has ample seating, and a back dining room seats about 40. There's plenty of dark wood, high ceilings, and charcoal gray walls.
The back room
There's also a second floor, which will open up for private events and when the first floor is at capacity. It boasts a second full bar, ample seating, and a patio. It has a slightly more industrial feel, all black and metallic gray.
There are 12 beers on tap at the moment but Maher plans to install more, with a goal of having about 30 taps in total. Beers average $5-7, and there will also be a daily happy hour. They're planning on opening at 9 am every morning like in the old days, and the kitchen (with a full menu, including homemade corned beef and cabbage) will be up and running in about three weeks.
So raise a glass to O'Connor's; it'll only remain the way it was in our memories. But I think it's been replaced by a shiny new bar that's hard to find major fault with, one that certainly appears to be a very solid watering hole.
So here's one last look at the old bar room:
And the same view, today: