Cedar Tavern

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The Cedar Tavern (or Cedar Street Tavern) was a bar and restaurant at the eastern edge of Greenwich Village, New York City. In its heyday, known as a gathering place for avant garde writers and artists, it was located at 24 University Place, near 8th Street. It was famous in its day as a hangout of many prominent Abstract Expressionist painters and Beat writers and poets. It closed in April 1963 and reopened three blocks north in 1964, at 82 University Place, between 11th and 12th Streets.


The Cedar Tavern was opened in 1866 on Cedar Street, near Zuccotti Park.[1] In 1933 it moved north to 55 West Eighth Street. In 1945 it moved east to 24 University Place.[2] In 1955, the Cedar Tavern was purchased by Sam Diliberto, a butcher, and his brother in law, John Bodnar, a window washer, from Joe Provenzano.[3] Robert Motherwell had a studio nearby in the early 1950s, and he held a weekly salon for artists there. The Cedar was the closest place for them to have a drink afterwards. Habitués liked it for its cheap drinks and lack of tourists or middle-class squares. University Place in those days was downmarket because of the several welfare and single-room occupancy hotels in the area. Jackson Pollock, Willem de Kooning, Mark Rothko, Franz Kline, Michael Goldberg, Landes Lewitin, Aristodimos Kaldis, Phillip Guston, Knute Stiles, Ted Joans, James Brooks, Charles Cajori, Mercedes Matter, Howard Kanovitz, Al Leslie and others of the New York School all patronized the bar in the 1950s when many lived in or near Greenwich Village. Historians consider it an important incubator of the Abstract Expressionist movement.[2] It was also popular with writers Allen Ginsberg, Jack Kerouac, Gregory Corso, Frank O'Hara, George Plimpton, Jean Stein, Harold "Doc" Humes, Alex Trocchi, and LeRoi Jones. Pollock was eventually banned from the establishment for tearing the bathroom door off its hinges and hurling it across the room at Franz Kline,[4] as was Kerouac, who allegedly urinated in an ashtray.[5]

Sam and John looked to the East Village around St. Mark's Pl. to reopen after the building was sold and demolished in 1963. After a year they bought the building at 82 University Place, which had been occupied by an antique store, and built the new bar in a more upscale pub style. By this time Pollock and Kline were gone, de Kooning had moved to East Hampton, and the scene gradually dissipated.

In the 1960s, Tuli Kupferberg of The Fugs, David Amram, and occasionally Bob Dylan, were known to patronize the Cedar Tavern. D.A. Pennebaker, Dylan, and Bob Neuwirth met there to plan the shooting of their 1967 documentary, Dont Look Back. [6]

Diliberto's sons Mike and Joe ran the place successfully for many years until 2006, when they decided to develop the site into condominiums. In December 2006, the Cedar Tavern closed to allow for the construction of a seven-story addition to the building in which it is housed. Its owners had pledged to reopen in six months, but an opinion piece in the December 3, 2006 edition of The New York Times speculated that it was closed for good. This proved prescient; in the wake of Joe Diliberto's death on October 27, 2007, his brother Mike failed to reopen the establishment.[7]

When the Cedar Tavern closed in 2006, its century-old, 50 foot mahogany bar was sold to Austin businessmen, John M. Scott and Eddy Patterson.[8] The bar was taken apart into hundreds of pieces, transported by movers of fine art, and stored for ten years. In 2016, it was brought out of storage to serve as the centerpiece of Eberly, a restaurant in Austin, Texas. [9]

The 24 University Place site, where most of the significant events in the establishment's history occurred, is now a full-block residential building; the primary ground-floor retail space of the building's University Place frontage is occupied by a CVS Pharmacy.[10]

In popular culture[edit]

  • The Cedar Tavern is featured in the first chapters of Augusten Burroughs' book Dry, and also in Joyce Glassman Johnson's memoir of Jack Kerouac, Minor Characters, and is the setting for Dawn Powell's The Golden Spur.
  • The Cedar Tavern is featured in Kurt Vonnegut's Bluebeard, serving as the meeting place of fictional artist Rabo Karabekian and his Abstract Expressionist painter friends.
  • In the season two episode "Look, She Made a Hat," of The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel Benjamin takes Midge to The Cedar Tavern to introduce her to the New York art world.


  1. ^ Pastorek, Whitney (December 3, 2006). "My New York Haunt". The New York Times. Retrieved 2011-11-19.
  2. ^ a b Lieber, Edvard. Willem de Kooning: Reflections in the Studio, Abrams:2000, pg. 127.
  3. ^ Jeff Klein, Best Bars of New York, 2006
  4. ^ McDarrah, Gloria & Fred. Beat Generation: Glory Days in Greenwich Village. New York: Simon & Schuster, 1996, p. 25.
  5. ^ Misiroglu, Gina (2015). "American Countercultures: An Encyclopedia of Nonconformists, Alternative Lifestyles, and Radical Ideas in U.S. History: An Encyclopedia of Nonconformists, Alternative Lifestyles, and Radical Ideas in U.S. History". Retrieved 2016-04-04.
  6. ^ Spitz, Robert. Dylan: A Biography.
  7. ^ "The Real Deal - New York Real Estate News". Archived from the original on December 28, 2007.
  8. ^ Corcoran, Michael. "NYC's Cedar Tavern comes to South Lamar". Arts+Labor. Retrieved 2016-05-09.
  9. ^ Odam, Matthew. "The Cedar Tavern at Eberly now opened with historic bar". Austin 360. Retrieved 2016-10-03.
  10. ^ "20 University Place". Google Maps. Retrieved 23 October 2017.

External links[edit]

Coordinates: 40°44′1″N 73°59′36″W / 40.73361°N 73.99333°W / 40.73361; -73.99333