Oldest bar in the Bronx, Jolly Tinker in Bedford Park, celebrates its 45th anniversary

“Mike is the best person in the world, a genuine guy who’s always been like family,” is what Noel Leddy, a retired NYPD officer said about Mr. Mike Prendergast Sr., co-owner of the Jolly Tinker located on the corner of Webster Avenue and Bedford Park Blvd. The Jolly Tinker has been a family owned and operated fixture in the northwest Bronx, open everyday for 45 years with the exception of one day, where the bar was closed for 3 hours due to a fire (which reopened right after the smoke cleared).
The building itself is approximately 100 years old, and many of the patrons and bartenders believe that it may have been a “speakeasy” during the days of prohibition, as there is a stairwell beneath a trap door behind the bar referred to as “The Catacombs”. Talking to regulars and visitors yield a number of colorful stories about who came and who went, but almost everyone agreed that Mr. Prendergast and his son Mike Jr. have had an impact not just behind the bar, but in the surrounding communities of Bedford Park and Norwood. “The Tinker is a stellar bar where people from far come to have a drink with friends,” said Chelsey Pendock, public relations for the bar and executive director at Innovision Advertising. The bar has drawn so much attention from throughout the borough that Congressman Charlie Rangel showed up to deliver a certificate of special congressional recognition to Mr. Prendergast for “Serving up pints in Bedford Park for an impressive 16,433 days.”
Mike Sr., who hails from the town of Tallow in Waterford County, Ireland, came to the U.S. and became a firefighter in East Harlem in the 1960’s. Soon after opening its doors in 1969, the Jolly Tinker not only began to draw huge crowds from nearby Fordham University, but also became a magnet and refuge for countless Irish immigrants trying to find work in NYC. It was stated by a patron who only identified himself as “Bill” that some immigrants would show up at the Jolly Tinker with only the clothes on their back and Mike’s number, and he would help them find work and a place to stay. That is probably the reason why first, second, and third generation regular patrons continue to show up and showed up today to the Jolly Tinker. Mike Prendergast has helped so many of his fellow Irishmen that there is a road named after him in his hometown.
Ms. Pendock also mentioned that the secret to the Jolly Tinker’s success has been to stay with the times. Last year, the Jolly Tinker joined forces with the newest bar in the Bronx, The Bronx Beer Hall, to found the Great Bronx Bar Tour. Starting at the Tinker, patrons were able to visit and sample drinks at the best 20 bars in the borough. Wildly successful, both bars are once again co-hosting the event this year on April 5th.
Mr. Prendergast is a true success story for small businesses and what they can do for their community and I wish him and his family continued success for many years to come. Cheers!
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