Arguably one of the few spots in Hoboken where people with great taste in music are the norm, DC’s Tavern (505 8th Street) is frequently referred to as a “dive bar.” While many establishments may take offense to that, bartender Larry Nieroda — who used to play guitar in Murphy’s Law and Subzero — takes pride in it and explained why that is within our Q&A. And that positive mindset is why the bar has a loyal following of patrons from all ages, backgrounds and political mindsets.
Beyond the fun atmosphere, DC’s Tavern also offers live music, Buck Hunter, and a surprisingly diverse drink menu. Many establishments in Hoboken will not attempt to make a bloody mary, yet Larry explained who to order one from and when. And for those in the hospitality industry – or to be around those from that business – an extra bonus of DC’s is they have an Industry Night on Thursdays.
I would send you to DC’s website for more info, but they’re arguably too cool to have one. Instead, it may be best to check their Facebook page to see the latest specials, upcoming events, and everything else essential. In the meantime, kudos are due to Larry for an honest interview, reminiscent of everything that makes Hoboken great.
hMAG: What made you become a bartender? Was there a particular movie or TV show that inspired it?
Larry Nieroda of DC’s Tavern: I did not set out to become a bartender. Two months after 9/11, I lost my job ending an almost 10-year run as a full-time toy designer in Manhattan. I had been a guitar player around the New York hardcore scene since ’92 and had been going to metal, hardcore and punk shows in NYC since the late 80’s. In November 2001, I joined a band from New York City called Murphy’s Law — wiki it if you’re not down or are just too young! When I jumped in the van and started playing dates, the guy playing drums at the time told me he was going to be opening a bar in Hoboken, NJ soon and would I like to work there? I said I knew nothing about working in a bar. He said, “You’re in bars all the time…you’ll be fine!” That bar opened in 2003 and is DC’s Tavern. He is the “C” in “DC’s.” I went all over the world for the next three years with that band and bartended at DC’s through all of it, and ever since. Punk rock and money — or the lack of it — made me become a bartender.
H: What do you wish more people knew about the bar tending trade?
L: I wish all people knew how to act in a bar when they are drinking. Just remember we are real people who feed our families and pay our rent from long late hours, and a very up and down business of helping people to have a relaxing time at the bar. For some reason, some people look down on people behind the bar and other service people as though they are somehow superior to them. That gets really old and tiring and just lets us know you are inconsiderate and probably compensating for the lack of something else in your life. I’m sure other service industry people reading this will know what I’m talking about. This doesn’t happen at DC’s, of course…everybody is super-nice there and we won’t allow it! We hold our customers to the highest standards!
H: Do you have a favorite part of the job?
L: Nice people are the best. Hands down.
H: What is the strangest drink you’ve ever had to prepare?
L: Man, I don’t remember all the weird stuff I get asked for — the shot of the month, you know? I used to get a guy that would pour a Magners in a giant glass and want me to top it off with tap Bud. I always thought that was kinda weird. We actually don’t make a lot of strange stuff at DC’s, we like to stick to the classics mostly. No blenders here. The Manhattans are good. The martinis are good, not fancy but good. The beer is cold. Come in on Sunday and there’s a guy in here called LA Bry who will make you a Bloody [Mary] that will bring a tear to your eye. Delicious! Talk nice to him…he’s been to more old original punk shows than you and all your friends combined!
H: Have you ever served a celebrity from behind the bar?
L: Hmm, well yes. There’s been many celebrities in here through the years…I might not have served them, though. I don’t want to start dropping names but we have had many far-ranging talented people in here over time! Music, acting, sports, cooking…infamous people too! You wouldn’t believe it.
I had a side job for a while where I did concert catering. Once while setting up a backstage bar and serving beverages there, I met Lemmy, Dio and Bruce Dickinson in the same night! Unfortunately it was before cell phones had cameras.
H: When people refer to DC’s Tavern as a “dive bar,” is that something that bothers you? Or do you look at it from the perspective of it being an unpretentious place to hang?
L: Oh we’re not faking anything. It’s a dive bar. An amazing little dive bar…in a town where that has become a very rare thing, if you haven’t noticed! By the way, the term “dive bar” says nothing about the clientele or who works there. It refers only to the style of bar and the people who love and understand that. There are tons of prominent people in history who espoused the dive bar and were uncomfortable drinking anywhere else. Believe me, people will miss us when we are gone!
People get pretentious about dive bars, too! Too-cool-for-school types. I’m told these people are called “hipsters” and they are as welcome as anybody here, but they need to drop the attitude like everybody else. Ha! The only time I don’t like it is when somebody I don’t know or don’t like calls it a dive bar! I say, “Hey, that’s an insult!” Only we and ours get to call it that.
H: What is an “Industry Night” at DC’s like?
L: It’s actually very new, we’ve just started one! Monday nights! Those with a valid bar card, come on down for a sweet deal! I’d love to see our Industry Night become a thing. I love serving other bartenders and such — always nice people! Come in and complain about the bar where you work with other bartenders… therapy!
H: What is your favorite thing about Hoboken?
L: That’s easy: DC’s Tavern, of course! I would’ve said Maxwell’s too, but oh well…HUGE cultural loss, that one. The sandwiches at Fiore’s are still on-point…Wed is my fav! There used to be some other hole-in-the-wall places that made amazing sandwiches, but they’ve all fallen victim to the wrecking ball. Cheese+Wine in the Monroe Building has amazing product and turn out an intensely tasty, high quality sandwich I have to say…love that place. Can’t get out without dropping 80 bucks, but god I love the cheese! Dozzino’s makes a fine pizza as well.
H: What is your drink of choice?
L: Depends on when and where really, and how much time I have! A cold Heineken. I like old European beers best. Gin martini up, slightly dirty. Manhattan up with rye, with a twist, no cherry. Scotch and soda. Classics. Simple. Recently I’ve been seriously digging white Russians. I don’t even know what the cool kids drink out there now?
H: Beyond DC’s, do you have a favorite bar in town?
L: I never get to any. I used to like Kelly’s Uptown on Washington. That was a great old spot. A shame it’s gone.
H: The music at DC’s is known to be great, but is there a song that you hope to never have to hear again while behind the bar?
L: There are many, but I don’t wanna give the kids any ideas, you know what I mean?
H: Finally, Larry, any last words for the kids?
L: If you enjoy a little neighborhood bar where real people, from all walks and from all over the world, hang out together and sip and listen to real music, then please come and say hey! We are an example of modern day world peace! All are welcome as long as you’re not a jerk. You might learn something. Treat people as you would have them treat you and “Be Good or Be Gone,” to quote a slightly more famous bar.