Prison Bars

Time Served in Comstock, New YorkMy entire professional life has been spent working within the prison system and juvenile justice system.  I have dealt with every type of offender imaginable from Death Row inhabitants to very young adolescents who have committed serious and disturbing offenses.  No matter where I have worked it never ceases to amaze me as to the high quality of people that work in these facilities.  In order to work in this environment requires the best of human qualities and one must possess “people” skills that most of us cannot even begin to imagine. 

We are a nation addicted to the notion of incarceration, whether the individual at the receiving end needs it or not.  One has to only see the massive old prisons in the state of New York to understand where this trend started.  But do not get me wrong, from personal experience there is a non-quantifiable number of the incarcerated that need to be where they are, forever.   However, too many mentally ill, uneducated, impoverished and addicted are dumped needlessly into the prison system because of lack of appropriate types of facilities and programs that troubled individuals need.

One day last week I discovered a great bar in the most unusual of places.  The tavern is located on the first floor of a house just outside the massive walls of a New York state prison.   Infamously known as “Great Meadow” or sometimes simply called “Comstock”.  The tavern is appropriately named “Time Served” and its motto is “The Little House Across From the Big House.”  It turned out to be a warm, friendly and inviting establishment located deep in the farm land and woodland of upstate New York.  The tavern and prison are adjacent to the Hudson Canal and a rail line.  

Sing Sing by Brett Weinstein/Wikimedia Commons

Sing Sing by Brett Weinstein/Wikimedia Commons

I think that I have figured out where the term “Going up the River” came from.  Convicted felons coming out of the New York City area were either moved up the Hudson River by boat, barge or rail.  Prisons such as Sing Sing, Matawan (Beacon), Great Meadow and the notorious complex of Clinton Correctional Facility and the Dannemora Building for the Criminally Insane which is located just south of the Canadian border and is clearly the last stop up the river; were all built in rural areas of New York but all within the Hudson River transportation system. 

Not much has changed in these places in over 150 years.  They are foreboding, intimidating, desolate places located in towns whose identities are intricately interwoven with the prisons reputations.  The towns of Ossining, Comstock, Dannemora are only known and identified by the massive prisons within their town limits.  However, in each of these prison towns families lead normal lives, kids go to school, people seek entertainment and everyone has dreams.  

At my new northern hang out at the “Time Served“, my wife and I met a Captain of security at Great Meadow who had just finished his shift in the prison and had begun a shift of Coors Light at his favorite bar.  We struck up a conversation that quickly diverged from small talk into a discussion of human behavior and philosophy.  I can say that I never had such an interesting and deep conversation with someone I had just met.  I can assure you that the Captain, after 25 years of working in maximum custody, is a much more interesting human being to have a conversation with as compared to any PhD type discussing the state of our society and the behavior of individuals within that society. 

It can be nearly a surreal experience to sit in a nice bar and look out the window and realize that you are in a shadow Tower at Dannemora/Wikimedia Commonsof a 30 foot wall with gun towers atop a massive prison structure.  Then add in the knowledge that Son of Sam, David Chapman (John Lennon’s assassin), Ronald DeFeo (Amityville Horror), Lucky Luciano and countless more villains of past and present call this place home, just adds to the overall unique aura of the place which will never be mistaken as ambiance.

So to sum up this experience, if you enjoy off beat and different kinds of taverns, “Time Served” is a worthy stop.  If luck is running your way maybe the “Captain” will be there with some of his crew from the “Big House”.   Sometimes our collective wisdom and education is found in the most unlikely of places.  “Time Served” in Comstock, New York is one of these places.

Posted by: John West/American Public House Review

Old Carbon County Jail/Jim Thorpe, PA

Click here to learn more about the publisher’s favorite Big House.

And please click on the link to visit “the little house across from the big house.”


Warming up at Washington D.C.’s Dubliner

This week, in continued celebration of Saint Patrick’s Day, the American Public House Review heads to our nation’s capitol to visit perhaps Washington D.C.’s most famous public house, the Dubliner.  If you are looking to hobnob with the politicos, this is the place to be.


An Irish Tavern that keeps true to its heritage with great atmosphere and live Celtic music, the Dubliner has become the place for the D.C. recognizables to come and unwind with a pint.  In the days leading up to the Inauguration, MSNBC chose this pub as almost its home base of operations.  I was proud to see the network recognize what we here at the APHR have always know, if you want to find the soul of a town you must start your search in the tavern.

So click here for the story and to join Chris Poh as he seeks shelter from the snow and ice of an Atlantic winter in Washington D.C. with a happy and warm ending at the Dubliner, the capitol city’s most renowned Irish tavern.


Published in: Uncategorized on March 20, 2009 at 6:59 am  Leave a Comment  
Tags: , , , , ,

Happy Saint Patrick’s Day!!

In Ireland, Saint Patrick’s Day is considered a holy day.  The celebration marking the death of their country’s patron saint, the man credited with bringing Catholicism to Ireland, is a family and church day.  But here in America, where the world’s first Saint Patrick’s Day Parade was held in 1762 by Irish soldiers serving in the English army, it is one big party.


In the United States, the Irish pub has come to be ground zero for St. Patty’s Day celebrations.  Those marching in the many grand parades like the one in Jim Thorpe, Pennsylvania, or just attending them, often start and end their day at the pub.  For those of Irish heritage, and those who wish they were, the Irish pub remains a special place all year long.  But on the 17th of March, people are willing to wait in long lines for hours just to belly up to one of these great bars.

And we here at the American Public House Review are no exception.  We seem to find ourselves spending time in many of America’s great Irish taverns.  So if you are sitting home today, or at the office, and you are curious about the influence Erin’s Isle has had on our country, you needn’t look any further than the archives of APHR for some great examples.


Of course few are more famous the Manhattan’s McSorley’s Ale House on the lower eastside, or P.J. Clarke’s found uptown.  Molly’s Shebeen, also downtown, ranks right there with those two in the annals of great turn of the century Irish taverns.  They are testaments to the lasting power of a great Irish pub. 


But a great tavern doesn’t need to be old to be great.  The Dubliner in Washington D.C. and the Dublin Pub in Morristown both opened in the early 1970’s, but feel as though they were transported here from Ireland’s largest city centuries ago.  For great music, try Mitchell’s Café along the Delaware River in New Jersey.  Or maybe you will be lucky enough to hear Gerry Timlin play at the Shanacie Pub in Ambler, Pa, where he is at once the entertainer, resident storyteller, and owner.

Needless to say, I love a good Irish pub.  I can literally say I was raised in them.  They are what brought me to my love of great taverns.  Yes, today may be the toughest day to get into one, and rightly so, but it is worth it.  I’ll be leaving for mine in just a couple of hours.


So from all of us here at the American Public House Review, to our readers of Irish and wishful-Irish heritage, we raise a glass and say “Thirst is a shameless disease, so here’s to a shameful cure”, and Happy Saint Patrick’s Day.

Posted by: David McBride

Missing Link Discovered in Ireland

A team of archaeologists and anthropologists, working on the site of an abandoned public house in the village of Knockaderry in County Limerick, announced today that they have uncovered the elusive missing link between Christmas and Easter. The remains of this strange humanoid creature was found in an old cardboard box tucked away in the attic of the former Gilhooley House.

This came as welcomed news to the folks at Guinness who are attempting the have Saint Patrick’s  Day recognized as an official holiday in the United States; but whom are facing stiff resistance from the Vatican. Church officials in Rome are citing an obscure edict from the Council of  Trent which states that in order for a religious observance to become a state sanctioned holiday it must have a secular biological mascot, e.g. (exempli gratia) Santa Claus and the Easter Bunny. In theory Halloween,(All Souls Day) and St. Valentines Day could be recognized because of Cupid and the Great Pumpkin.

When asked if he was surprised by the find, team leader Dr. Mac McCrackin, from the Edinburgh Institute of  Scholarly Advanced Academics – Glasgow Campus, said that he was more surprised to find an abandoned public house in Knockaderry.

The official classification for this new genus is “Viridis Vir Instituo  Tabernus” which translates from Latin to mean “Green Man Found in a Tavern” but most of the team just call him  Paddy.

Paddy O'Pine

Paddy O'Pine

Posted by: Chris Poh, American Public House Review




Forget 2012…the World Can’t End Before 10,759 A.D.

You can forget about  Nostradamus, the Bible code, the Mayan calendar 2012 scenario and all that other end times malarkey. The answers to mankind’s future lie not in the written ravings of a Frenchmen or the ancient texts; but can be found in a simple document penned in the city of Dublin in 1759. 

It was there that  Arthur Guinness put his signature on a sacred pact that allowed him to lease the dormant brewery at St. James’s Gate for the next 9000 years. The very funds that made this tenancy possible came to Arthur by way of an inheritance from his Godfather, the Reverend Arthur Price, Archbishop of Cashel. Even someone with a rudimentary understanding of the relationship between Ireland and its clergy would know that this was a covenant between Heaven and Earth, and the terms of that agreement are sacrosanct.

Since we now know that the folks at Guinness are releasing a special anniversary stout this spring to mark the 250th year of production at the original brewery, we can calculate that there are approximately 8,750 years left on the lease and that mankind’s stay on planet Earth is good until at least 10,759 A.D. Although, based upon our continued unreasonable behavior, it’s probably not to early to begin to negotiate an extension.

Today over 750,000 “pilgrims of the perfect pint” visit St. James’s Gate each year. Recently Madeleine Best Henn, a contributing editor to American Public House Review, visited the Guinness compound in Dublin. Click here to read her account.

And for those of you who can’t travel to Ireland for that spot-on pint of Guinness, here is the secret of the perfect pour, courtesy of the pros at Diageo.

For the perfect pint, tilt the glass to 45 degrees and carefully pour until three-quarters full. Then place the glass on the bar counter and leave to settle. Once the surge has settled to perfection, fill the glass to the brim. This is the legendary Guinness ‘two-part pour’. It takes 119.5 seconds to pour the perfect pint.

The Perfect Pint - Image by Matthew Trevithick


Posted by: Chris Poh

Can your bartender do this?

Can your bartender do this?  Well, mine can.  At least the one I ran into during my last trip to the Rose and Crown in Walt Disney World’s Epcot.


Carl, the bartender with the magical glasses, has been behind the bar at the Rose and Crown for as long as I can remember.  Disney is known for good service, but Carl does all he can to go beyond that standard by making you feel at home in this terrific pub.

The funny thing was that Carl knew that his crowd was a Disney crowd.  He positioned it so it would fall on a rubber mat, should someone decide to touch it, and not shatter.  And that is exactly what happened.  A mother, thinking everything in Disney is an illusion, thought this was one as well.  When it fell, she let out a yell that is still vibrating through the wood on the back bar.

by Dave McBride

Published in: Uncategorized on March 7, 2009 at 9:09 am  Comments (4)  
Tags: , ,

The ongoing thirst for the perfect public house leads to Manhattan’s PJ Clarke’s

In this week’s article on the American Public House Review, Chris Poh takes us to a true Manhattan institution.  It is a place with a somewhat murky history and an incredibly inviting atmosphere called PJ Clarke’s.


Take a stroll around the place.  See Frank Sinatra’s regular table, and the photos of all the luminaries who have graced these very same barstools you are about to occupy.  You may be impressed with all the famous people, but you will be even more impressed with the overwhelming sense of history and belonging this little brick tavern possesses amidst the shadows of the steel giants surrounding PJ Clarke’s in midtown Manhattan.


In my posting about Molly’s Shebeen, I mention that certain indescribable feeling that old Manhattan bars have.  It is an atmospheric element that is unique to taverns on this island and PJ Clarke’s defines it.  It is Francis Ford Coppola and Woody Allen at the same time.  It is all together colonial and roaring twenties.  It is warm and inviting, while also feeling like the scene of a Vito Corleone style hit.  If none of that makes sense, please remember that I started the paragraph by calling it indescribable.

by Dave McBride


%d bloggers like this: