Although famously home to P.S.1 and Silvercup Studios (the soundstage for Sex in the City and The Sopranos), Long Island City isn’t always ready for its close-up, despite plans to rezone the district and create a “new midtown.” The area’s a lean, existential wedge in NYC’s bar-hopping pie, populated by surreal-looking old industrial buildings (an ersatz ghost town that’s a nerve center of transportation). It’s a curious locale for seeking out firewater establishments, but with the Citibank skyscraper as a signpost, Liquid City sets off through the rainy streets and into the L.I.C. Twilight Zone.
Given its official hours, 2 to 9 p.m., and strategic location outside the Hunters Point Avenue subway station, around the corner from the Midtown Tunnel, LUCKY 7 (21-17 49th Avenue, Long Island City, Queens, 718-729-0288) should have a brisk commuter trade. But this annex of the Skyline—a railcar diner overlooking the craterlike MTA yards—is a quiet haven for a lucky seven or so customers. Yet despite the visible lack of blue-collar brawn, the mantel above the bar is festooned with stickers cheering on Steamfitters Local 638, NYC Laborers’ Local 79, and other hometown unions. It’s also proudly crowned with a row of hard hats. In solidarity with this display, we order the Roosevelt, a gin, rum, grenadine, and lime juice concoction ($5) served in a martini glass, while the regulars opt for end-of-the-shift Heinekens ($3). Noticing the mysterious horn—like the ominous symbol from Pynchon’s The Crying of Lot 49—hung above the cash register, we decide to depart early on a good note; we are, after all, on 49th Avenue.
Lured by a coral awning advertising a “Go-Go Bar & Grill,” we zag left to the RIVERHEAD INN (45-08 Vernon Boulevard, 718-392-7664), where we order bottled Budweisers ($5) and sit back to survey the action. Behind the extensive bar, backed by floor-to-ceiling mirrors washed by the glare from a giant-screen television, a brace of young ladies in hot pants and minimal tops (“Girls frequently wear less clothing on MTV,” notes an unimpressed onlooker) tentatively sway to remixes of Dido and Moby on a crush-board platform. Dancers awaiting their turn onstage outnumber the lone-wolf patrons, who don’t seem to mind the controlled, “under new management” feel to the spare, low-lit establishment. “Friday’s the busy night,” says one performer, leaning low to accept a George Washington in her bikini strap.
We seek asylum from the go-go blare at the SHANNON POT (45-06 Davis Street, 718-786-6992), a quiet little pub—if you overlook the subway rattle from the elevated No. 7 train above—that plays cheerful oldies radio. It’s too late to order unpredictable-sounding filet mignon cubes ($4.95) or crab cake balls ($4.95), so we opt for a liquid meal of Guinness ($4) and a Johnnie Walker Red Label ($4.50) and grab a seat among the small, ragged scene of student types, tank-topped men, and middle-aged couples nursing beers and watching the three TVs. The ’70s-hotel-style mauve walls, Bud Lite clock, wan decorative curtains, and ubiquitous “Irish Writers” poster are oddly comforting—this is a clean, bright place amid the flotsam of often inscrutable local grog shops. Finally, L.I.C.’s Holy Trinity: a solid pint, regular hours, and straightforward service, and you can just put the tip on the bar—instead of fumbling to wedge singles between skin and bra strap.
This article from the Village Voice Archive was posted on August 21, 2001