Bar Toast Raised To The End Of Prohibition By Harold McNeil 12/07/07 Buffalo News
About 40 patrons of a far East Side bar hoisted a glass or bottle Thursday in commemoration of the repeal of Prohibition 74 years ago. It also provided those on the “Forgotten Buffalo” tour, organized by Martin Biniasz and Eddy Dobosiewicz, to sample seldom-acknowledged relics from the city’s past — like Daren’s Tavern at 514 Howard St., one of three old-style neighborhood taverns where Thursday’s festivities were held. “Ladies and gentlemen, we are here on this 74th anniversary to salute our freedom as Americans to drink what we want,” Biniasz said to whoops from the small crowd. “This tavern was founded in 1900. It was part of the [Magnus] Beck Brewing Co.’s chain of taverns, and it has been in continuous use as a tavern since then,” he told those packing the tiny bar. The tour attracted an eclectic assortment of folks from across the greater community — history buffs, factory workers and college students, among them — who were bused into a neighborhood that a few generations ago was home to the city’s bustling meat-packing district. Daren’s Tavern, according to Biniasz, represents one of the best-preserved, pre- Prohibition bars in the city and still maintains its original features, including a finely carved woodwork behind the bar and turn-of-the century tin ceiling. “They were selling alcohol during Prohibition out of a back room during those 14 years when you couldn’t get a legal drink. There’s a speak-easy door that’s still there,” Biniasz said. “Seventy-four years ago [Thursday], a shipment of alcohol left the Larkin warehouse, and it made its way to bars and restaurants and private clubs all over Western New York. Although Prohibition was repealed the day before, booze didn’t really hit Buffalo’s market until the day after, Dec. 6,” Biniasz added. Dobosiewicz said he and Biniasz founded “Forgotten Buffalo” to highlight those remaining architectural and cultural aspects of Buffalo that contributed to it being “one of the most unique urban environments in America.” “It salutes working-man neighborhoods, our blue-collar past. We’re a city of churches, neighborhood taverns of hardworking, blue-collared men and women,” he said. Dobosiewicz and Biniasz are collaborating on a book that will showcase some of the city’s turn-of-the-20th-century taverns.
Patrons on Thursday’s tour also stopped at two other historic taverns in Polonia: the R&L Lounge on Mill Street near the Broadway Market and the G&T Tavern across Memorial Drive from Central Terminal. “I actually love what Eddy is doing,” said Caitlin Love Crowell, an Allentown resident. Gary Lachut of Kenmore also said this was a tour he could not pass up. “I’m enamored with the ‘bar-back,’ the carved wood,” he said. “I’m a big collector of Iroquois Beer stuff.” As Crowell and Lachut marveled at the bar’s features, Biniasz stood atop the bar, raised a glass and proposed a toast: “From bootleggers to blackjack, Buffalo is on the right track. The politicians may lie, the slumlords may keep on flipping, but as long as the river flows, we’ll keep on sipping.”