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If you’d like to raise a glass to iconic neighborhood dive Holland Bar, you’ll have to do so somewhere else — the legendary Hell’s Kitchen watering hole has closed. Today, it is left with nothing but an empty brick-lined room and the many memories of its eclectic existence on 9th Avenue. 

The Holland Bar has closed on 9th Avenue. Illustration: Joel Holland

While Holland Bar had already risen once from the ashes of a lease termination in 2008, this time, it seemed clear that the area hangout between W39/30th Streets —  known for its cash-only cheap beers, dark lighting, jukebox, and barside collection of signed dollar bills — had poured its last Budweiser. 

Like all good dive bars, Holland’s origin story is delightfully and purposefully opaque. According to a New York Times article from 2009, owners Gary Kelly would proudly display a painted sign declaring the joint as “established in 1927” across the storefront window — though Kelly, who has owned the bar since 1998 with wife Melissa, acknowledged to the Times that he was unsure of the exact year of the bar’s origin. Kelly may be right yet, however, as prior to its current location the bar once served as an offshoot of the Holland Hotel, established on W42nd Street between 8th and 9th Avenue in 1927. 

The Holland Bar closed at the weekend and had been stripped back to the walls by Tuesday morning. Photo: Phil O’Brien

A cursory scroll of the bar’s Facebook page doesn’t offer many more clues — its only external link directs users to a website for the Holland Inn located in Bar Harbor, Maine (also closed, RIP). Several news articles detail its unlikely and much-heralded comeback in 2009, after plans to convert or sell the building fell through and the bar’s landlord agreed to renew their lease. But dive a bit further in and you’ll begin to uncover clues about the now-shuttered Port Authority-adjacent paradise, left in loving homages by visitors on Yelp and Trip Advisor. 

“Only bar I’ve been to in my life where the Chipmunks Christmas song came on, and everyone in the bar sang along. And it was a Thursday… in October. I will be back for sure,” said one visitor. 

Bartender “Dr Bill” working at the Holland Bar back in 2014. Photo: Nacho Guevara

Another visitor who called Holland Bar “A Gem in this Day and Age”, advised: “Sit there with a cold Budweiser and take it all in like a fly on the wall. Don’t be cheap and put some singles in the jukebox, you owe it to yourself.”

Mused another of Holland’s vibe: “Dive bar…what does that even mean? To me, it’s a place where there’s no judgment and you can be yourself. It also means that there are some eclectic folks who patronize it. Depending on the time of day, or night, it’s more ‘eclectic’ than others. Don’t get there as often as I’d like to, but always feel at home when I do. Is that a good or bad thing, LOL?!”

The Holland Bar, photographed in May 2021, when they accommodated customers outside during the pandemic. Photo: Phil O’Brien

Former bartender Sandy Michelle also noted that the customers were “a real variety — some of the men were wild, some of the men were OK. But the majority of them were friendly and there to have a good time.”

One high-profile fan of Holland Bar was the late Anthony Bourdain, who cited the watering hole as “A classic old-man bar a couple doors down from Siberia. You know, the kind of place it’s okay to drink during the day,” he told Gothamist, in a ranking of his favorite places in 2006. 

Inside the Holland Bar in December 2015, its name was up in lights. Photo: Phil O’Brien

In addition to Holland, which the staff at Gothamist co-signed as  “definitely an old-man (old-man-alcoholic) bar, though it’s not terribly divey — it just feels that way when you’re there in the morning with men in suits on their way to work” — Bourdain cited Hell’s Kitchen mainstays Siberia (now closed, once located on W40th Street and 9th Avenue) and The Distinguished Wakamba Cocktail Lounge (W37th and 8th Avenue, still open!). 

Now, with Holland Bar’s closing — said to be attributed to COVID-era staffing and financial challenges — it seemed that another brick of Old Hell’s Kitchen had fallen off the facade. As one visitor predicted, the bar was “A full cross section of what Hell’s Kitchen was and is probably about to lose.” 

Another alerted visitors that “this dive is not for everyone but that’s the point. If you are old enough to remember or weird enough to wonder what NYC was like in 1976-1979, you’ve stumbled over the right dive bar. Pull up a bar stool for a reasonably priced libation, put down your yuppy attitude and sing along to the Motown and Sinatra hits. I have it on good advice that you want to leave before you need to use the restroom. This place is not for the kiddies or the delicate.” 

Holland Bar, the kind of place where Kelly once lost track of and later recovered a beloved bartender’s ashes (at times proudly displayed on the bar) and regulars considered rival Rudy’s a “yuppie” bar, is now relegated to artist Joel Holland’s illustration and the fond memories of its West Side patrons.

The scene on 9th Avenue today with the signs gone from the Holland Bar. Photo: Phil O’Brien

As Holland Bar regular and dive bar fan Ben told W42ST: “ The Holland has become one of my favorite spots recently because their beer prices are still cheap compared to the other bars in the area, Annie the bartender was especially welcoming, they played the jukebox music nice and loud as a dive bar should, and the Holland always reminded me of old NYC. It’s another huge loss to New York City.” 

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22 Comments

  1. Best dive bar in New York City bartenders like Dr Bill classic Hell’s kitchen person with stories that were great cheap beer no judgment great characters just a classic dive bar from back then

  2. Post Covid times, had noticed that the Holland was not open at its once usual 8 am hour. Not sure if there are any Port Authority area bars left that open early for the “unhappy” hours?!

  3. …Drank there on and off since 1989…great people, great character, great place…endless memories. Had people come there from across the country they all loved it and couldn’t wait to return…farewell old friend…

  4. …Drank there on and off since 1989. Great people, great experiences, great times…Dr Bill, Little Laura, Miss Louie, Charlie’s ashes over the sign…a great watering hole and a piece of history now lost to time…

  5. In most bars, people huddle up in small groups and keep to themselves. Nothing doing like that in the Holland! It was impossible to be in there for more than 10 minutes and not meet some gregarious and completely outgoing stranger every time. The place seemed to be filled with them. It had lots of character (and characters!). And hats off to Tania, one of the sweetest and best bartenders you’ll ever meet.

    1. good point, was truly something of a bar where i would actually talk to strangers, as a proper bar should entail rather than groups of people going to bars and keeping to their group like today. can think of at least three stories from this bar which i didn’t go to that often.

  6. I went to Holland Bar on my first ever night in New York (and USA) in 2015. I was 24, travelling alone and from England. The people inside from punters to staff were so welcoming and generous, and I had one of the best nights of my life. I returned in 2016 and it still had the same brilliant vibe. This is sad news.

  7. My brother took me there for a night on the town. Dr. Bill was tending bar that night and I had the pleasure of meeting Miss Louie, one of the nicest and most memorable people I’ve ever met in a dive bar.

  8. Rest in Peace, Holland. The only place – to my knowledge – to have ever had my name grace the room that passed itself off as a restroom. Many an hour spent killing off my brain cells drinking there and challenging my immune system just being there. Cheers, Gary!

  9. Gary, I hadn’t been in for quite a few years (that’s what happens when you move to The Bronx!), and I’m so sorry to hear of the closing. I wish you and Melissa the best.

  10. Before the pandemic I was a regular on Wednesday and Saturday! My 2 favorite bartenders Marie and Tania. Always had a good and will my favorite dive bar.

  11. Gary Kelly once told me that long after we were dead and gone, the Holland will still be rockin’, I guess he came up short on this one, farewell to the greatest dive in NYC.

  12. Friends from a Javit’s photo equipment show came to meet me during my first couple of hour stop there. I had most of the bar warbling along to a tune I don’t recall, but when my pals arrived, the wife wondered, due to the loud camaraderie, how often I came there.
    “Never been before” was my accurate reply. That kind of NY gem..once again, gone forever.

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