Blind Tiger Ale House
281 Bleecker St., New York, NY10014
The Blind Tiger turns 20 next week, which left me wondering why we’re still here. With craft beer available on every corner, what’s kept the Tiger going, through relocation and all it’s challenges, despite tremendous competition, and the passage of time? And not just going, but going strong, since, to me, the Tiger is better than she’s ever been.
When we opened our doors in March of 1996, we had a simple goal: to be a great neighborhood bar that happened to have an equally great craft beer list; as opposed to being a great beer bar that happened to land in the West Village, but could have existed anywhere. We felt like we had to differentiate ourselves in this way because dba had been open for a year and a half, and people were convinced Manhattan didn’t need two beer bars. I don’t think any of us realized what a defining moment this intention would be, and the impact it would have on our identity over the years. From the beginning, we were of and for our neighborhood, the communal sum of many things, and many people. We envisioned a place that transcended easy labels, that was hard to put into words, a place that would eventually become, simply, the Blind Tiger. It takes a long time to build a name that becomes a definition in and of itself. A definition, and a place, that’s still hard to describe.
What does it mean to be a great neighborhood bar? For us it meant an unpretentious place where people from all walks of life, and all parts of the West Village, could gather and socialize, and slowly build bonds. Craft beer is a great ice breaker, but that was usually only the start of the conversation, and the friendships that developed. The Blind Tiger, like every great local, is the people who have worked here, and the people who have come here, and the fact that over time this diverse group encompassing both sides of the bar has become a family. I think part of the reason the lines are a bit blurry here is the fact that most of our bartenders were regulars first, chosen from the crowd after they had put in enough time to know the Tiger way of doing things, drawing the attention of our staff, who then recommended them.
What is the Tiger way? I’m not sure exactly. Sometimes I feel like it’s us who has to keep up with her, that she knows more than all of us put together. Then again, she is all of us put together, plus a little bit more. All of us who have spent time running this place over the years have each added something to the Tiger’s distinct personality. From my original partner, Bryan Delaney, who has been such a rock of strength, while also keeping all our financial affairs in order, to Brian Yaussi, another of our founding partners, who died much too young, to all of our GM’s, including Phil Megal, Alan Jestice, and Tim Reinke, to our current managing partner, Katherine Kyle, to our staff, and to all our regulars, each of us has played a role in giving the Tiger her amazing heart and soul. Each of us is the reason the Tiger is still here, each of us is the reason she’s overcome challenges and the passage of time, and each of is the reason she’s turning twenty and going stronger than ever.
Please join us on Tuesday March 15th, beginning at 3pm, as the Tiger celebrates her 20th anniversary, and we all raise a glass to her next twenty. Long live the Tiger.