When you speak to many New Yorkers who aren’t from Queens, they’ll often preface the largest borough in the City with “way out.” But what they will say is that Queens is probably one of the most diverse areas in the world. In fact, if Queens was to secede from New York, it would be the fourth largest city in the country. Within its quiet Sunnyside neighborhood lies Bar 43, a hub for soccer that has been in business for over a decade. We met up with owner Nick Murphy who gave us the history of the bar and how they've immersed themselves into the Queens community.
Tommie Battle: So Nick tell me about how you got your start in the business?
Nick Murphy: I grew up in Ireland playing soccer and stuff and played some rugby in college and stuff but I came out here 16 years ago. I always bartended and was in that atmosphere of watching the games. About 13 years ago we opened up this place, and in the beginning you know like opening up a sports bar in America you're concentrating on American football and stuff like that. We did really well with the NFL. Then we started to realize there's a lot bigger demand for soccer from the neighborhood. Because of the neighborhood there's people from all over the world that came here and they really had no outlet, so we started promoting soccer heavily.
TB: Why Queens?
NM: We’ve always been here. I lived here and worked in Woodside for a while. I like the neighborhood, I like the way it operates. There are neighborhoods in Queens that seem to be more high traffic like the Sunnyside, Long Island City kind of atmosphere, and Astoria is pretty good as well. But obviously you get to build relationships with people. We have our regulars, and we have had a lot of really fun times. We actually had an eleven-a-side bar soccer league for a while.
TB: So Queens has fully embraced you?
NM: Yeah absolutely, we've been able to help out a lot. I don’t want to blow on trumpets but when you do ask around that we do try and help a lot in the community. I remember when (Hurricane) Sandy happened, we had a big party room downstairs where we took donations. We ran vans out there once or twice a week with all the stuff that we could send, we organized groups of people and everybody went out there and helped clean up some houses and help out some families that were displaced. So you're able to do things like that, you know. Whether it's there's a lot of local organizations for kids, tragedies, people getting displaced or losing jobs and stuff like that, we’re able to have some fundraisers, and just really help out. So we've been lucky. I think we do the right thing with the people in the community, and they respect that, they like giving back. We really helped out during COVID.
TB: Do you think that that level of interaction and giving back to the community was able to help sustain you over the past year and a half?
NM: I think you needed it all to survive. I can honestly say that Sunnyside is fortunately heavy on residents, you know. People own these houses, people own these apartments, and they're probably in that position where they don't have that second home or they don't have that place out on Long Island, or Upstate where they're retreating. So you had a lot of people still staying around.
A lot of people really have tried to help out and order deliveries for every business around. At the beginning of COVID nobody knew what was gonna happen of course, but once the takeout drinks started, and the weather was warm people started to come out and that was really good.
TB: Switching gears to soccer, tell me about Soccer Republic
NM: We started the brand a couple years before the pandemic and the idea was to highlight soccer bars across America. Places that actually make the effort to give people who want to watch soccer a platform. We made a database for it that was updated up until last year, started doing YouTube channel and just try to build our consumer base. If you're in New York, you know where to go, but if you're traveling anywhere and you want to see the game we’ll tell you where to visit. If you want to watch a particular team, let's say you're a Liverpool fan or something, hopefully be able to show you to this place that is the Liverpool bar, the United bar, etc. to give you the best experience.
TB: Similar to a network?
NM: Yeah. Hopefully we can build up a big enough brand where we’re doing things like partnering with academies and clubs.
TB: Like you’re doing with NYCFC.
NM: You know, NYCFC has brought a new level of supporters into this bar, we’ve had players come through, we have had a couple of events where NYCFC hosted after being named best soccer bar in a few publications throughout the years. We’ve had Frank Lampard appear and bring NYCFC and Chelsea fans along with him. The place was packed! We needed partitions to rope off the bar so that people could meet him and sign autographs. Pirlo was another one that made an appearance, so you have all of the fans from Italy. Patrick Viera came and spoke when he was coaching the team. Having NYCFC make appearances is good for the community, it's good to highlight and host events like that, where you're having these prestigious players come down to sign jerseys and speak to the people, it really is solid. It's the fact that you're promoting it, you're here for soccer, here for the growth of it, it's been great for us.
TB: Where do you see Bar 43 in a few years?
NM: You know, we're on this and we're always improving here. We're always trying to improve. The plan is to keep offering people good products, good service. We’re looking into maybe expanding into new locations, that'll be really exciting. I do like other neighborhoods in Queens but haven't really dabbled too much in Manhattan. We'll take a look around, and hopefully we can find a nice location where we can bring you more of the same.