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Twigging out at White Horse Tavern: Sidewalk cafe foliage catches fire

BY JEFFERSON SIEGEL | On Monday afternoon, firefighters rushed to the historic White Horse Tavern on Hudson Street in the West Village. They were not anxious to slake their thirst. Rather they were there to quench a small fire.

After a small fire on The White Horse Tavern’s enclosed sidewalk cafe, charred decorative branches hung over the place’s entrance on Monday, Feb. 21. (Photo by © Jefferson Siegel)

The tavern’s outdoor dining shed, decorated and covered with branches, leaves and tree limbs, somehow saw a small fire spark on the branches over the shed’s door by W. 11th Street. Firefighters were able to quickly extinguish the blaze. Minutes later the burnt area was barely visible from the street as a bar employee stepped out to sweep away a small pile of ash. There were no injuries and there was no damage to the shed or bar.

On Monday night the Fire Department’s press office had no further information on the small fire and its cause.

Firefighters quickly extinguished the small blaze. Luckily, the ignited dried foliage did not act like kindling to spark a larger fire. (Photo by © Jefferson)

The landmarked pub, founded in 1880, is the second oldest watering hole in the city. According to its Web site, the White Horse originally catered to longshoremen working the ships and docks of the Hudson River. In the 1950s it attracted artists and writers who moved to the West Village, including Dylan Thomas and Jack Kerouac, as well as folk and jazz musicians.

Three years ago, the building was purchased by notorious landlord Steve Croman and the bar was taken over by Eytan Sugarman, who upscaled it to turn it into a trendy hot spot.

Andrew Ansbro, the head of the Uniformed Firefighters Association union, recently warned that the Open Restaurants roadway sheds can be hazardous, in some cases, because they can impede firefighters from responding to building blazes. He didn’t mention, however, the issue of dried-out decorative foliage igniting on sidewalk cafes.


  1. Dianna Maeurer Dianna Maeurer February 22, 2022

    Last spring when I saw the ridiculously decorated shed at White Horse Tavern, the very first thought that sprang to mind was, “that is a fire waiting to happen.”
    Since that time, sheds all over the five boroughs have festooned their street cabanas with all manner of flammable paper flowers, vines, fruits, etc.
    Admittedly, while some of these enhancements do add a whimsical touch to the sheds, there are zero fire guidelines on the books regarding what materials are acceptable, flame-retardant, etc. Surely some fire-safety guidelines, established by the FDNY in regard to extraneous decoration, has to be put forth as the City now considers making outdoor dining structures permanent.

    • JQ LLC JQ LLC March 13, 2022

      Some of these shanties have hand sanitizer bottles on the tables too. That’s a good acclerant igniter.

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