A plaque remaining from the Big Apple Night Club at West 135th Street and Seventh Avenue in Harlem.

Above, a 1934 plaque from the Big Apple Night Club at West 135th Street and Seventh Avenue in Harlem. Discarded as trash in 2006. Now a Popeyes fast food restaurant on Google Maps.

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Entry from May 31, 2006
“Be Good Or Be Gone” (McSorley’s Ale House & others)
McSorley's Ale House had the slogan "Good Ale, Raw Onions, and No Ladies" (see above), but that went out of style by the 1970s.

"Be Good Or Be Gone" has been traced (below) to an anonymous tavern by at least 1948 and to McSorley's by at least 1970.

McSorley's Ale House
1 East 7th Street
New York City

Though McSorley's claims to have opened in 1854, historians indicated it opened in 1862. The one motto of McSorley's is, "Be good, or be gone!"

The old fireplace is also in the backroom -- that's where the original owner John McSorley held court (as witnessed in a well-known John Sloan sketch nearby). Above the fireplace is the McSorley's motto Ð "Be Good or Be Gone", as well as a portrait of Peter Cooper, founder of Cooper Union.

On St. Patrick's and every other day, current owner Mattie Maher—his is the third family to run the tavern—upholds a strict no-tolerance policy regarding drunk surliness, the longtime motto being "Be Good or Be Gone" (preferable to the now-abandoned philosophy of "Good Ale, Raw Onions, and No Ladies.") For the McSorley's staff, this must be the longest, most grueling day of the year.

Depending on how busy the bar is will determine whether or not you catch some trademark McSorley's attitude for taking so long to show up. "Be good or be gone" is the motto here, although after 26 or 28 of those frothy mugs of beer, it's a little hard to heed the signs that say as much.

21 April 1948, Chicago Daily Tribune, pg. 18:
Some signs I've seen: in a drugstore window, over a display of nursing bottles: "Give the little suckers a chance"; in a tavern: "Be Good or Be Gone"; and in a nightclub: "Peace is a state of mind your own business".

27 August 1970, Los Angeles Times, "Shure, and 'Tis No Fit Place for a Colleen, That M'Sorleys" by Richard Dougherty, pg. 1:
And so, as the nationwide women's strike for equality was observed Wednesday with parades, demonstrations, work stoppages and the like, McSorley's was gradually adjusting (Pg. 16 -- ed.) to the presence of women at the rickety tables that dot its sawdust-covered floor, and at the bar that has above it a time-darkened legend reading: "Be Good Or Be Gone."

Posted by Barry Popik
Restaurants/Bars/Coffeehouses/Food Stores • Wednesday, May 31, 2006 • Permalink

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