Nov. 27, 2012 By Bill Parry
When the Firewater Inn, located at 39-46 Skillman Ave., closed for renovations in April 2011, the owners never imagined that it would remain shut for about two years.
The revamp got delayed several times as the owners, the three McGowan brothers, struggled to get the building permits they needed.
“We had a crummy architect who didn’t understand the new zoning laws,” said Jimmy McGowan, who was raised in Sunnyside with his brothers.
When the bar reopens, the McGowans will rename it Jack’s Sunnyside Ale House in honor of their late father, who opened the Firewater in 1987. They’ll add a beer garden, a kitchen, and eventually a raw bar for the weekends.
“The whole neighborhood is changing,” Jimmy said. “We figured we had to change with the times and the culture.”
When their late father retired nine years ago, he turned the family business over to his sons, all firefighters. The bar became a self-described frat house, with a young and rowdy crowd. “No more cranking the music and no more pool table,” Jimmy said.
During their two year wait, John retired from the FDNY, while Brian and Jimmy have remained on active duty and expanded their families. “We each had a kid last year,” said Jimmy, “I had my third and Brian had his first.”
Brian, the youngest of the three, was named the Sunnyside/Woodside Boys & Girls Club Man of the Year this summer after rescuing three young children from a fire in the Bronx.
“We’ve kept busy the last couple of years,” said Brian. “It’ll be good to get this place open again.”
They’re hoping to get the bar ready in time for the Super Bowl. However, Jimmy warns, “Unless the Mayan Apocalypse screws everything up.”
New bar looks amazing. Tons of tap beer, microbrews, the usual bottled and some nice wines. Can’t wait for the kitchen to open. Brews and wings aaah….. New owner John McGowan runs another bar too, if that is any hint, I think Sunnyside just got another great bar.
Change the sign, it looks old for such a new bar.
Im a latin american and i was always in firewater. no better place to get a reasonable drink watch sports and bullsh*t w/ your neighbors. always played pool there always had dart tournaments and always had softball teams. lets get this bar up and running so i can spend more fri an sat nights there like old times
Those of us who grew up in the neighborhood (I was born in ’65, lived there till about ’87) will tell you that it was always a pretty diverse neighborhood. We went to school locally – whether Q of A, or 150 – and we had a good mix of people there. And a person’s ethnicity /race was never an issue.
Hats off to the McGowan boys.
With the mentality and intolerance of those that post here……you ask! “Whats next?” if some people on this site had their way. ?……complete intolerance
Halloween costume censorship! That’s classic! What an effing joke! Most of us who grew up here in Sunnyside are not quite that politically correct. It’s Halloween and it was a costume. I don’t think any bar owner wants to be bullied into having their hand forced to tell their patrons what they can or cannot where to a Halloween party! Geez. What’s next?!?!
Hey “Water” why dont you use your name?
Did anyone here know that a former prime minister of isreal was born in ireland? That Dublin has its own holocaust museum……that Ireland has always held a special place in its heart for the Jewish people? Again stop the name calling good luck and god speed to the McGowans
Black face…white Face Hate is hate…..Ruben and the others who use this forum to spread invective are engaging in deplorable conduct.
I was there the Halloween night to the woman came in with black face done in the classic horrible way.
I don’t believe this person was from around here, that isn’t the issue.
The issue isn’t even that they weren’t thrown out; legally they had a right to be as disrespectful and ridiculous as they want to be.
It is the notion that no one even said anything to her and/or batted an eye. (I said something to her actually)
This rotates back to what Marilyn & Ruben said. This leads to feeling uncomfortable and or unwelcome. Of course it isn’t Alabama, it is more blatant and not as under the table.
I was always treated well and received good service and normally had a good time while I was there.
One incident on a busy night does not reflect the establishments persona as a whole, but cannot be negated either.
Responding by attacking the people making rational sane comments reinforces the feeling of exclusion.
Reuben who is jvb son. U sound like a hood rat especially when you were the 1st blog on comments to the man getting beat down on 43 rd ave and he was beat to death. Everyone read this clowns comment on the 1ststory on this site. Sad that you portray yourself as a concerned Latino but u really are just a thug. Stay away u clown
Marylin u and Reuben are two peas in a pod and prob nobody likes neither one of u. Reuben I have read your comments on previous stories in this newspaper and u sound thuggish ,yet u portray yourself as a Latino politician . Get a life. Marylyn u 2. These guys don’t nd retards like u at their new bar and to be honest nobody does . U guys suck!
Marilyn – I can only assume it was Halloween and it was a joke. Let’s not make a Halloween party so damn politically correct. If you do not like Sunnyside or a certain bar, you should seek out another neighborhood with other bars – which is unfortunate, because you are letting one silly incident derail your feelings for Sunnyside and this particular bar. This neighborhood was defined as a hidden gem within the 5 boroughs. You should take advantage of all the fine qualities of the neighborhood, but please try not to be so sensitive.
GREAT PLACE, GREAT FAMILY, Cant wait to get there.
I understand your comment about the “barmaids” aka bartenders. However I think the fact that you think it is okay that the Carribean attendees showed up in white face is deplorable. It goes both ways. It was in bad taste and for many people probably offensive. Also I am sure that if it did in fact happen people were probably standing around saying ” If I did that I would be called a racist!” BTW wearing a mask to look like a well known person who happens to be of a differnet ethnicity is different than what I am writing about. But hey, this is America and this is in fact Sunnyside not Alabama. The fact that what I witnessed happened in Sunnyside and not in the deep south makes it that much more concerning. Thank you for helping me make my point.
In response to Marilyn, as someone who has frequented saloons for a fair few years I can tell you that barmaids treat women a lot differently than they do the male customer. They know how to play the man like a fiddle. A little flirtation here and there is always good for the tip cup. I know you’d like to make a race thing out of it, but usually it’s the fact that another woman is on the scene and she can see right through the shenanigans of the barmaid. Hence the undercurrent of resentment. As for halloween, come on. Three years running I attended halloween parties in Crown Heights. 90% of attendees were of carribean descent. A fair number had white faces painted on, or had masks to look like certain white people. Was it bad taste? No. Did anyone get offended ? No. Marilyn relax, this is Sunnyside not Alabama.
Having read these post has got me thinking about how great of a neighborhood sunnyside was and still is. Many great individuals and families have called sunnyside and woodside home, along with the many who call them home now. My family has had the fortune to have either met or form frienships with a good handful of them, for this we are greatful. Sunnyside the place I’ve called home for 35 years will always remain a great neighborhood to live and raise a family. As for FireWater “soon to be Jacks Ale House” which was my dads name, we cant wait til it’s up and running. We look forward to seeing everyone and I mean everyone when we open. Have a safe and Happy holiday season and we’ll see ya soon!
Rough and tumble, salt of the earth, big hearted, neighborhood guys is the best words I can think of to describe the McGowan brothers. Great family, and I’m sure they’re going to make a success out of the bar when it re-opens. I for one will be in there hoisting a few and I hope a few newbies to the hood will take the plunge and venture in. You’ll get a great welcome, as I did when I first moved to the area.
As for that bore Rueben, occasionally he’s given me a slight chuckle but the more he posts the more I’m convinced he’s some sad white guy trying to invent a Latino persona to stir up controversy.
Once again, I have to back Ruben up and I don’t even know the man. I am an African American female who frequented the Firewater more than once. When the female bartender was there I would turn around and leave. She was very unfriendly and her regulars didn’t seem too happy to have me there. However when she wasn’t there it was a great welcoming place where my friends ( of all races) could get a drink with the bartender from the Bronx, play music, dance and play pool. However, I stopped going after the last Halloween party. A woman showed up in black face. Hey, it is a free country and my white friend made her feelings known to this other white woman, but why would someone dressed in black face feel that it was okay to walk into the Firewater like that? No, I don’t think the owners had anything to do with her choice of costume but she didn’t go to Claret like that. She didn’t go to any of the other bars I went to that night, I only saw her at Fire Water. Why wasn’t she asked to leave? It made me sad and angry.
Where’s my Tow??? I want to pour a pint for him and watch WWF! and yell at Timmy 😉
If John, Jimmy and Brian only used an ounce of their creativity, drive, ambition, passion and wholeheartedness, “Jack’s Sunnyside Ale House” would still be a huge success. The McGowans thrive on creating an environment where everyone will enjoy themselves. As an employee for over seven years, these are the owners who really care about their patrons. You will always be welcomed with a smile and you will be sure to leave with a laugh. Unlike most bar owners, they understand their patrons needs and strive to fulfill them. Being born and bred Sunnyside, they really know how to make you feel “at home” whether you are from the neighborhood or not.
Good luck, guys. I cannot wait to toast you in “Jack’s Sunnyside Ale House.” Your Dad would be proud.
I Cant believe we are even talking about race!COOL Place, Great guys.
Merry Christmas Helene, John, Jimmy, Brian and Family! Your Dad is smiling down on you from Heaven and I am sure is very happy with the new direction you are taking the bar, especially by renaming it after him! Good Luck!
Cant waite for the grand opening. Great palce, great
people and great times! Enough said!!!
I have worked at firewater on and off for many years and can honestly say you will never meet a nicer and more honest and stand up family than the mcgowans. They truly bring have brought the neighborhood together since its opening in the 80’s and will continue to do so following their renovations. The bar will be beautiful, will have the delicious appetizers, soups and signature meals that the patrons will savor and then yet, despite the many positive changes, will always hold the same feeling of friendship and belonging that jack and Helene instilled so deeply here so many years ago and that will forever live within the walls of this natural landmark… A place many feel “as home”. We are looking forward to seeing everyone together once again in the new and improved Jacks Ale House.
I look forward to a pint of Guinness in this new establishment. Just take your time pouring it and and don’t leave too much foam at the top please.
hey! I was only asking I wasn’t accusing ! I will now forward this info to my sensitive latino brothers.
This re-opening is going to be a fantastic tribute to a great man and a greater friend, Jack McGowan! I spent countless thursday & friday afternoons sitting with Jack discussing food from all angles, types & ethnicities. From where the best push-carts & pickles, donuts & steaks, seafood & black beans & rice could be found at the cheapest prices. Jack & his boys always knew when to nicely send me on my way. For that, myself & scores of pedestrians, thank y’all. As for Ruben…you are so,so wrong. I can’t wait to pull up a stool next to you and as we knock back several whiskies, help you to experiance the feeling of being truly welcome in this wonderful establishment.
Wishing John, Jimmy & Brian the best of luck and the greatest success.
God Bless yaz!
Thats Sunnyside….thank you Mr. Downes
I think naming the bar after Mr. Jack McGowan is a wonderful idea. Jack McGowan is one of my favorite people of all time. It never mattered to him who or what you were, he treated everyone with the same respect. I truly loved that man. I can hear him in heaven saying ” That Tow Downes was going woo woo woo.” The McGowan family are wonderful people. Helene has given so much to Sunnyside including helping keep Queen of Angels school open when they tried to close it originally. She is a Sunnyside icon and I love her. John, Jimmy and Brian are all good friends of mine who have given back to the neighborhood immeasurably. I also love them very much. I am so glad to hear the bar is going to open again because it really is my home away from home, I can go in there and sing classics from Three Dog Night and the Ramones and not get judged by anybody. I truly feel like Norm from Cheers in that bar. Everybody knows my name and I feel loved. A shout out to the great bartenders like Timmy, Christine, Shannon, Mario, Mike and Sue Eddy and my boy Joe Myers. The Firewater is a wonderful establishment and renaming it after Jack is a wonderful idea. Looking forward to seeing my second family.
“The Pride of Sunnyside”
ALOHA, I cant wait for Jacks to open! A place where working class people can enjoy a drink and leave their worries at the door, what more can a person ask for? Hats off to John, Jimmy,and Brian for following through and getting this place back open. Cant wait to see everyone on opening night MAHALO!
I believe that there are different reasons that people say negative things, usually out of jealousy or being a “hater”. If you know the McGowans, then you’d know that they extend their hand to everyone, and are the first to help those in need. This was learned from Jack, a man who was known and loved throughout Sunnyside.. and now the Ale house will bear a great man’s name along with the great neighborhood that he along with his boys represent. Cheers, McGowans.. and kudos for honoring both a great man and a great neighborhood.
i cant wait until the doors are finally open. The bar should be quite amazing when its finally done. i cant even start to count how many people have been asking about the bar since closing. it is a true meaning of what a neighborhood bar should be, no matter what ethnicity you are.
i have been hanging out there for years, and alot of our friends that want to know when they can finally return and have a drink with all of us again are of Latin descent. I guess Reuben was thinking of the wrong place. no problem. just dont want to see any bad press for something that isnt true.
how about we just all see how great it is for ourselves when it opens. enough said…
good luck fellas!!!!
great guys great place counting down the days
I take great offense to Reuben’s accusations that we are even close to racist and unwelcoming to any ” specific kind”. We welcome everyone and treat everyone as equals until they show disrespect whether it be for our patrons our neighborhood, or conveyed through their attitude and/or hoodlum attire regardless of their race- they could be white, black or Latino. It’s not the race but the way you present yourself and treat others. We appreciate everyone’s positive comments and for those comments like Reuben’s anyone that truly knows our business or family can attest that race is never an issue. Happy holidays to everyone… See you in the new year!
Ruben , You dont belong around here ! Hop it !
I will be the first to buy you a pint…..and I dont even drink! Extend your hand in friendship and peace!
@ Ruben – whoever told you the above doesn’t know the McGowans and must never have frequented the Firewater before it closed for renovation. I grew up with Jimmy & Brian and probably a quarter of our neighborhood friends and classmates were hispanic. Now if Latinos CHOOSE not to frequent their establishment, that’s a whole other story. This used to be a great neighborhood bar, before it got rowdy and had other issues going on there that made me not want to frequent it. The McGowan’s are a great family and I am so glad they renovated the bar and are giving back to Sunnyside, the neighborhood we love, grew up in and some of us still even live here. 🙂 I just had to school you a little on this first! Hope to see you there!
Censorship scores again on Sunnyside Post ! hurrah! a site where pretentious know it alls can slam a girls education and job endeavors but ask if a certain bar is cool with ethnic or urban customers and I get deleted. pure ridiculous slanted agenda ridden news feed!
The reason I ASK…Sunnyside post….is because I know a few people who told me this certain place was less than welcoming for “their kind”. If this reality is too much for your sensitivities then I suggest you turn this site into a blog for cupcakes cuz these are real world concerns.
Truly some of the best guys who came out of Sunnyside. Can’t wait to have a drink at Jack’s Sunnyside Ale House.
Good luck to the new firewater
Please have a cocktail menu and a happy hour.
Are Latinos welcomed?
Ah, the old Out Post.
The McGowan Brothers are GREAT people! Congrats!
I’m looking forward to it! I hope they have outdoor seating again. Personally I wouldn’t mind a pool table, but I am glad to see the frat vibe retired.
Stand up bunch of guy’s! I think renaming the place after their Dad is a fantastic Idea… Cheers Lads and Good Luck!
I can’t wait for the new firewater to open. I haven’t had a drink since they closed there doors and I’m gettin really thirsty.
I’ve been hoping to hear some news about this! I keep walking by hoping for signs of life.
Can’t wait to hoist a pint or two there.
How about some kosher appetizers! Looking forward to the opening! Mazel !
Exciting!! Looking forward to it! It would be great if the guys had some classic rock playing in there. No true classic rock music in the neighborhood.
All the best to the owners.
I randomly walked past this place a few months ago and wondered what was going on there (I live on the opposite side of town).
It really does look cute from the outside… lots of potential.
I can’t wait to try it out!
Bonus points if there’s pet-friendly outdoor seating 🙂
I’ll be happy to spend my money at this local establishment!
Great to see my neighbors putting their money back into our community!
The McGowan Bros are true heros.
Every day they put their lives on the line to help and save others.
God Bless them and their family and I wish them all the Best in their new venture.
Hope the boys keep a dart board (or two) up in the new space. 😉
Good luck boys.
….Like the idea of a beer garden. Remember them when I was a youngster on 48th Ave and Dad and our uncles would give Mom a break by taking us with him for a few hours. Loved the rare soda and treats ..
.. Praying to the Mayan Gods to bypass you ….