Bklyn Tavern Witnesses 80 Years of Neighborhood Changes

(Photo by Angela Sharp via Feet in 2 Worlds)

Soccer Tavern is situated on Brooklyn’s Eight Avenue in the heart of the borough’s Chinatown. Opened in 1929, the bar has witnessed and outlived the many different waves of immigrant groups since then. (Photo by Angela Sharp via Feet in 2 Worlds)

It’s not in the most predictable of locations, but the Soccer Tavern bar in Sunset Park has watched and outlived 80 years of immigration waves descend on Brooklyn’s Eight Avenue, from Scandinavian to Italian to present day, where the borough’s Chinatown flourishes outside the bar’s doors.

Feet in 2 Worlds‘ Angela Sharp headed to the Irish-owned Soccer Tavern, following her curiosity for a business seemingly, at first, mismatched in its Chinatown location.

I first visited the Soccer Tavern years ago and thought it strange that an Irish bar existed in Chinatown. Only years later did I discover that Brooklyn’s 8th Avenue had a rich history with immigrants from Norway, Italy, Finland, and other parts of Europe settling in the area. In fact, 8th Avenue was once known as Lapskaus Boulevard, named after a popular Norwegian meal. A Norwegian owner opened the Soccer Tavern during Prohibition in 1929 as a speakeasy.

Soccer Tavern owner Brenda Farley (Photo by Angela Sharp via Feet in 2 Worlds)

Soccer Tavern owner Brenda Farley (Photo by Angela Sharp via Feet in 2 Worlds)

The Norwegians worked in the harbor and would play soccer on weekends, bar owner Brendan Farley tells Sharp. He is himself an immigrant who came to the city from Ireland in 1986, when Norwegian businesses spanned the avenue. A few years later, however, “like overnight they left at the same time.” The area gave way to Irish immigrants in the late 1980s and early 1990s and shifted to Chinese when the Irish went back home, the bar owner says.

Farley describes the bar “like a Cheers right in the middle of 8th Avenue Chinatown.” According to Sharp, customers credit him for giving the bar its welcoming and homely atmosphere. When it comes to bringing different communities together, it’s a bar game that does the trick.

What helps the melding of ethnicities and ages is the Dart League, which the Soccer Tavern is a part of. There are several teams broken up into skill levels. It is here where the Chinese and younger bar-goers have been able to really forge a community with the old-timers of the Soccer Tavern.

Visit Feet in 2 Worlds for an audio podcast in which Sharp has captured moments from her excursion – including an interview with Farley and others, accompanied by a photo gallery.

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