The New York Times Building is now where the Terminal Bar used to be. Photo by Anthony Quintano via Flickr Creative Commons.
With a reputation as one of the roughest bars in the city, Terminal Bar in Times Square had quite the history. The dive bar started out with Irish-Americans as the main clientele, before becoming a majority African-American, and gay bar. Located across from the Port Authority Bus Terminal, the site where the bar used to be is now the New York Times building at 41st and 8th Ave.
While Terminal Bar closed its doors in 1982, its been immortalized in more than a few ways. Martin Scorsese featured the bar in his critically acclaimed film Taxi Driver, and later on after the bar had closed, had a pub called “Terminal Bar” in his 1985 film After Hours, as a sort of homage.
Additionally, when Sheldon Nadelman started working as a bartender at the Terminal Bar in 1972, he took around 2,600 pictures of the bar and its patrons with his camera; these pictures would go on to inspire Stefan Nadelman, Sheldon’s Nadelman’s son, to film an award-winning documentary on the bar, aptly titled Terminal Bar.
The reputation of the bar was not unfounded. The surrounding area was a known hotspot for assault, murder, and theft. Once, Nadelman told the Times, when he went to open the bar, he arrived to find a crime scene at the front door, complete with yellow crime scene tape, and a dead body. Apparently, the victim had been killed inside the bar, dragged outside, and left. Nadelman cut the yellow tape, and got to work inside.
To see the building now, it would be impossible to guess that it once housed one of New York’s roughest and seediest dive bars. But in addition to the hard reputation, the bar also provided a place for the patrons, “those who has been diminished and marginalized,” Nadelman recalled.
Despite the seemingly-forgotten history of the bar, and indeed New York’s rougher underbelly that once-was, glimpses of the lifestyle are can still be seen in Nadelman’s photos. Raw and evocative, the photos keep a part of the bar alive – and a history that shouldn’t be forgotten.
For more information on Sheldon Nadelman’s photos, they have been compiled into a book, Terminal Bar: A Photographic Record of New York’s Most Notorious Watering Hole.
Next, check out 12 Storied Bars of New York: Where Literary Luminaries Went to Drink.