Bierhaus NYC is a Bavarian-style restaurant & beer hall located just two blocks from Grand Central Terminal in midtown Manhattan. Serving authentic German cuisine and beer by the boot imported directly from Germany since 2011, you'll get a taste of a Munich Oktoberfest experience right in midtown. We sat down with Bierhaus NYC owner Paul O'Connor to talk about the beauty of community and what makes this beer hall special.
Katie Cahalin: How long has Bierhaus NYC been in business?
Paul O’Connor: We opened in March of 2011. At that stage, we started looking at the Hofbräu brand to partner with for a couple of years before that. Visiting Munich and then some places in the United States, like Milwaukee and Las Vegas who have concepts similar to us.
KC: What made you want to get into this industry and what were you hoping to bring to Manhattan?
PO: Over the years, we've had several different bar concepts, couple of restaurant concepts. When we opened here, we had an English style pub with live music, we had a Colorado themed bar, we had a log cabin themed bar. And then we had Mad Dog & Beans, a Mexican Cantina down on Stone Street. We had all these ideas for different parts of the city. At that stage, there weren’t many beer halls in New York City, definitely not in Manhattan. We had looked at the Hofbräu brand for a number of years before that because it’s a very unique story. Hofbräu is owned by the people of Bavaria. They’re very proud of it, especially in Munich. They want to take you to the original Hofbräuhaus that has been there since the 1500s. So just to bring some of that to New York City is something we wanted to do and have done it very successfully for the past 10 years.
KC: How did Bierhaus NYC face the pandemic? How have things been improving in more recent months?
PO: We got shut down with everybody else. We’re in Midtown Manhattan which is very business orientated. Nothing that's kind of residential. We opened up towards the end of last summer, end of August, beginning of September, again. Oktoberfest runs from the middle of September through October. Obviously, we weren't allowed to have any large gatherings so that got really hard for us last year. Then, we closed down for a couple of months – December, January, February. Now for the past few months or so, we’ve been just trying to let people know that we're open, that we're here again. Same as any other bar, restaurant. The hospitality business in the city is very, very challenging. but hopefully, we can see the light at the end of the tunnel. With news of people coming back to the offices, we're getting a lot of requests for corporate events, anywhere from 10 people to a 100 people starting in September. I think after Labor Day, you will see the city come back to even more life than we're seeing right now. Some companies are all back, and then some companies are very hesitant to require people to come back. Some people want to be back, they’ve been home long enough. So yeah, as long as you know, the numbers stay good here in New York City, and we should be fine.
KC: What are you looking forward to the most over the next few months?
PO: We're very popular with large groups. Each of these tables holds up to 10 people and then there are people that rent out the entire space. You'll have smaller groups come in and there are a couple companies that have been coming here from day one that bring 100, 200 people so we’re looking forward to getting back to that. Starting live music again. We haven't started our live music program since the shutdown of COVID. So, we’re looking forward to getting some of the bands back here.
KC: How would you describe the atmosphere to someone who has never been here before?
PO: It’s a very accurate representation of what a beer hall is like in Bavaria. You have big communal tables that can hold up to 10 people. It's all about community. You sit down, you come with your friends, you’ll try and get a table together and you might be put with some other people that you don't know. You might keep to yourself or an hour or two later, you might find out you have something in common. It's the same when you walk into the Hofbräuhaus in Munich. You just go where you’re put, especially on the busier nights, and then you make friends with people. It's just all about community. We serve Hofbräu beer. That’s going back again to the 1500s, the German purity laws, so the beer is very fresh. It comes right into the Newark Port. So it comes right in from Munich to here. But it's just very communal. It can hold about 150 people, people standing, milling around. There’s a lot of wood features. And then the bar is a smaller bar, but you can sit there if you're on your own, stand there. But it's all about community and communal space.
KC: How is Bierhaus’ relationship with soccer?
PO: It's a great place if you want to watch soccer. The best atmosphere is during the European Championships, World Cups, obviously if Germany advances it's amazing. It’s an electric atmosphere. And then any time some of the bigger German teams get to the ending stages of the Bundesliga, the same with NYCFC, the better year they have you’ll see more and more people coming out for those games. We've run buses from here to Yankee Stadium. We've had season tickets since NYCFC was announced as a team, so we enjoy going to the games. I'll take my family, take friends, staff will go. It's very easy to get to a game. You can meet here, then just jump on a train at Grand Central two blocks away and you can get to the games very quickly. Same thing coming back, people will meet at the game and then come back here afterwards.
KC: What do you like the most about being in this industry and being in New York City?
PO: It is a great industry if you like people. You have to like people to be successful, I believe. Then just seeing different parts of the city and how they change, how people's tastes change. The way people go out change, the times people go out change. What they're interested in when they sit down. The customer side and the staffing side has changed as well. You get to see people from all over the world as customers and as staff. You get to learn a lot by just paying attention to the people that work for you, the customers that come in. It's great to have that. New York is such a melting pot with people coming in. But back to what I like about the industry, it's just the people, that's what it is. I also like getting to go to Oktoberfest. It's great to see where this whole idea came about in Munich and in Bavaria.
KC: What are you trips to Oktoberfest in Munich like?
PO: We go, some of my business partners go, and we have some friends that join us. And starting even before we open here, we have a group of friends we met at Oktoberfest, like I was saying, sitting at a table and they’re some of our best friends now. But when we go, we meet with the Hofbräu representatives that work out of Munich just to get an update where the brand is going, what support they can give us. And then also with the tract, which is the dirndls and the lederhosen, we get those from a store in Munich. That’s part of our trip every year. We go to the same store, talk to the same people and get our tract for the year. So that when people come in, you'll see dirndls being worn which is very traditional also, so that's part of the trip as well. And obviously to have good time. We go to the Hofbräu tent which is a very big international tent that holds 10,000 people. That's a very international crowd that goes there. But then you go some of the smaller tents where it becomes more regional, more locals. But it's just to have a great time. You always see something different, something new, even though we've been going for almost 14 years. It’s still quite a spectacle when you walk in. It's an amazing sight to see.