Fascinating photos capture New York's most famous bars at dawn

Fascinating photos capture the eerie quiet of New York City’s most famous drinking haunts at dawn – from Ernest Hemingway’s favorite watering hole to an iconic Manhattan gay bar

  • Photographer Daniel Root’s new book titled New York Bars At Dawn captures bars after hours
  • The shots range from well-known establishments like Balthazar and the Stonewall Inn to nameless dives
  • Root says when the bars are closed, ‘what is left behind is a mix of under-bar strip lighting, an exit sign’s glow’

Devoid of customers and with sunlight on the horizon, these photos show a different side to New York’s bustling bar scene.

Captured by photographer Daniel Root and published in a new book titled New York Bars At Dawn, the shots range from well-known establishments like Balthazar, McSorley’s, and the Stonewall Inn to nameless dives.

One shot shows the Minetta Tavern in Greenwich Village closed for business with the lights off and the shutters down. The restaurant and bar – famed for its Black Label Burger which has lured the likes of the late Anthony Bourdain and David Beckham – is traditionally heaving and tables are hard to come by.

Meanwhile hotspot The Nines, frequented by the likes of Chris Rock, Anne Hathaway, and Bradley Cooper, looks eerily quiet, with all of the barstools unoccupied and the sultry atmosphere cut by the lights on full brightness.

Commenting on the images, Root says: ‘Typically, when bars are open they are strikingly lit, aiming to stimulate excitement – and business. When they are quiet till morning, what is left behind is a mix of under-bar strip lighting, an exit sign’s red glow, light cascading from a side-room door left ajar, a string of party lights someone forgot to turn off, the radiance of a streetlight, the glare of a DON’T WALK sign on the corner.’ 

Raise a glass and cast your eyes down to access 14 of New York’s drinking establishments after hours, with Roots’ tome containing some 200 or so more images… 

SANT AMBROEUS: Root captures this popular Milanese-inspired restaurant and bar spot in Soho at a more peaceful hour. The cameraman says he generally walks the city ‘between four and eight in the morning’ to get the right atmosphere 

LE COU COU: The restaurant at this Chinatown establishment boasts a Michelin star with refined French fare on offer but the bar area, as captured by Root, is equally as appetizing with low lighting and romantic murals adorning the walls

MINETTA TAVERN: The lights are off and the shutters are down at this speakeasy-style hot spot in Greenwich Village. Since its opening in 1937, the restaurant and bar has welcomed everyone from Ernest Hemingway to the late Anthony Bourdain, who was a big fan of the restaurant’s much-praised Black Label Burger

BEAUTY & ESSEX: Normally buzzing with people, Root snapped a shot of this popular Lower East Side bar and restaurant’s quirky entranceway. The venue’s website notes that is designed to look like a ‘well-­curated modern day pawn shop replete with a saxophone, boom­box, quirky artifacts, vintage treasures and an eclectic array of one-off pieces of jewelry’

BLUE NOTE: This legendary jazz club in Greenwich Village opened in 1981. Root says of his bar portraits: ‘I’ve spent time in many of these places when they are open, enjoying a refreshment or two, and I can tell you – as you see in my photographs -that looking from a dark street into a deserted tavern evokes a different sort of reverie’

BAR FEDORA: Unfortunately, this West Village institution was a victim of the Covid pandemic and the owners made the tough decision to close it for good in the fall of 2020. Root describes this shot as a ‘classic New York City neon street scene’

THE NINES: This NoHo piano bar, frequented by the likes of Chris Rock, Anne Hathaway, and Bradley Cooper, looks eerily quiet, with all of the barstools unoccupied and the sultry atmosphere cut by the lights on full bright mode. Roots gives this hotspot a thumbs up and says the owners have ‘really done up the place’

ARLENE’S GROCERY: Housed inside a former bodega, this much-loved music venue is located in the heart of the Lower East Side. In his shot, Roots captured the first signs of sunlight creeping in and casting shadows on the bar

NURSE BETTIE: A harsh light illuminates this pinup-themed burlesque bar after the performers and patron have gone home. The bar is located in the Lower East Side and not far from the East Village where Root is based 

WHITE HORSE TAVERN: Following several renovations, this former dockworkers bar in the West Village has more of an ‘upscale’ edge, Root says. The drinking hole, which opened in 1880, prides itself on being the second oldest continuously run tavern in Manhattan. Along with dockworkers, it served as a hangout for literary greats including the poet Dylan Thomas

THE STONEWALL INN: This iconic bar in Greenwich Village was the site of an infamous 1969 riot between patrons and police that many now believe to be the event that first drew national attention to the gay rights movement. However, Root’s portrait at dawn makes the place look like an oasis of calm

THE BITTER END: It’s often hard to hear yourself at this spot in Greenwich Village, which prides itself on being the city’s oldest rock club. Root says of the historic venue: ‘[This is a] music bar that everyone seems to have played at least once’

CHERRY TAVERN: A blurb on the website describes this haunt of Root’s as ‘a laid-back bar in the heart of the East Village. It’s a place to meet up with old friends or make new ones, play pool, peruse the juke box, and enjoy cheap drinks’

OLD TOWN BAR: Root says of this characterful wood paneled spot, which is located in between Park Avenue and Broadway at 45 East 18th Street in the Flatiron neighborhood: ‘[A] nineteenth-century bar, originally German and named Viemeisters’

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