Drinking an alcoholic beverage on the subway today would probably get you ticketed or arrested but this was not always the case. Alcohol was actually a served along the subway, as reported by The Subway Maven. In the early 1960s, New York City’s Transit system was in the middle of a massive cleanup campaign. As a way to promote it, the Metropolitan Transit Authority created “a bar car” in January of 1962, a one-time publicity stunt for the campaign.
The “bar car” could be seen as the equivalent of first class travel. It had plush carpeting, draped curtains and pastel lighting. Most notably, it had a bartender who served stress ridden strap-hangers with champagne and bagels. The bar car did a single roundtrip, between Times Square to South Ferry and back.
The vintage collection of photos gives our subway cars a sort of luxury quality. It is a a far cry from the pristine white walls and blue seating that we’ve become acclimated to during our daily rides. Unfortunately, the subway “bar car’ only made one ride: From Times Square to South Ferry. Even then, the photos provide nostalgic New Yorkers with a pleasant peak into the past.
Although you can still drink on the LIRR and Metro North, the last bar car on the Metro North pulled away last May, and on the LIRR trains, drinking was permitted any time until May 2012 when a ban went in place on trains and platforms between the hours of midnight and 5am.
Read on for our column on vintage photos of 1980s NYC Subway Riders.