Charles bukowski

Maspeth bar invokes writer’s spirit

Bukowski’s, Maspeth, has its grand opening this weekend.

By Peter McDermott

Many writers liked their drink, we know. It was the ruination for some of them: think Brendan Behan and Dylan Thomas. For others, like Graham Greene, it was something to look forward to in the afternoon and into the evening, after the morning’s labors at the desk (in Greene’s case, exactly 500 words were written each day).

Whatever their relationship to alcohol, the major literary figures were generally very good at avoiding anything that most people would call a real job. Which is why two men from County Longford, Peter Maguire and Paul Quinn, preferred not to use any clichéd names like Oscar Wilde or James Joyce and have called their new bar in Maspeth after a celebrated American cult writer who also was a working stiff for long periods of his life.

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It’s not an original idea, they admit – there are bars named for Charles Bukowski in several cities, including his hometown of Los Angeles. But Queens’ newest Irish bar represents a first for New York City. And unlike those other joints called Bukowski’s, it’s off the touristy beaten track and in a neighborhood where working-class people live.

There’s also a large dollop of continuity in the mix, too, in that it’s on the Grand Avenue site of Burke’s, a popular gin mill in Maspeth going back 60 years and more before closing last year.

The owners hope to show with this weekend’s grand opening that Bukowski’s doesn’t “steer too far from its predecessor’ style with friendly staff, a wide selection of draft beers and a reputation for the best pint of Guinness in town.”

They believe it’s the sort of place that the man himself would frequent if he were still around. He’s not, though. Bukowski died in 1994 at age 73. He was born in Germany in 1920 to a local woman and a German-American soldier, and brought to his father’s California at a young age.

Novelist, short-story writer, columnist

and punk poet Charles Bukowski.

“He was the original punk poet of his generation and his outlandish booze-filled tales are always a refreshing alternative to the preachy gray tomes of his contemporaries,” the new bar’s owners say in a statement.

Despite Bukowski’s prolific output of poetry, novels, short stories and columns, he held down a series of jobs, most notably working for the U.S. Postal Service. After his second stint with the post office, which lasted 10 years, he decided at age 49 to take his chances on writing full time.

“Tales of Ordinary Madness” is perhaps the best-known title associated with the writer and the screen version in 1981 had Ben Gazzara playing Bukowski himself, while in 1987 Mickey Rourke played Bukowski’s literary alter ego Henry Chinaski in “Barfly.”

The Bukowski’s Grand Opening may have a few barflies in attendance, but the owners said they couldn’t promise the sort of “loose women” that Bukowski liked to see in the bars he hung out in. But there will be lots of good music, including from Kildare’s Billy Joe Ward, the Travellers, the Steve Reilly Band, members of the Thirsty Bandits and more. A complimentary barbeque will be served on Sunday in the beer garden. Bukowski's is located at 69-45 Grand Ave., Maspeth, New York 11378. Tel: 929-296-0209.