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Black Emperor Bar – The Best Neighborhood Bar in the East Village

Photo by Dan Bassini

Black Emperor Bar is an ode to the culture of the East Village, with a unique Japanese flair. Opening in May 2019, it’s quickly become a refuge for locals searching for the last of the authentic, old-school New York bars. Brought to life by seasoned NYC bar vets and longtime friends John Bush and Ben Rojo, Black Emperor was created for the neighborhood, by the neighborhood.

A culmination of their professional talents and meticulous eyes for customer experience, the bar features highly-sought after cocktails including their signature fresh squeezed Watermelon Margarita and refreshing Japanese cocktail Toki High Ball. The Deer Hunter slushie, is a blend of tequila, ginger, and a bunch of other things that will make you forget that you’re drinking tequila. And last but not least, the Spumoni – a cross pollination between Japanese and Italian culture. “As far as I’m aware, [it’s] an ode to the aperitivo aesthetic, from either the late ’80s or early ’90s Roppongi/Ginza,” says Ben Rojo, co-owner of New York’s Japanese-leaning Black Emperor Bar, citing the epicenter of Tokyo’s cocktail scene as ground zero for the Spumoni. “[It’s] in line with the massive popularity of Italian cuisine during that time frame,” he adds” (Big in Japan by Chloe Frechette,, August 2019)

Aesthetically, Black Emperor Bar pays homage to 1990s Tokyo and the outsider culture. The walls are adorned with nods to Japanese culture including: Bosozoku (youth bikers), Ultraman, Irezumi (Japanese tattoo), fight sports, Godzilla, and comic books. The name itself is borrowed from a legendary teenage biker gang that reigned across Japan in the 60s, 70s and 80s. Hailed by one patron as the “best neighborhood bar in the East Village. Great atmosphere, super comfortable, friendly people.” The gang championed youthful rebellion and doing things their own way, while providing a sense of brotherhood and community…a spirit that can certainly be felt as soon as you walk in the door.

Black Emperor Bar

197 2nd Avenue between 12th & 13th streets

New York, NY 10003 


Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday – 5:00 PM to 3:00 AM

Thursday & Friday – 4:00 PM to 4:00 AM

Saturday – 12:00 PM to 4:00 AM

Sunday – 12:00 PM to 2:00 AM 


5:00 PM to 11:00 PM, 7 days a week

About the Author

New York Trend is a weekly news publication that focuses on issues and lifestyles of the African & Caribbean American communities throughout the New York metropolitan area and Nassau and Suffolk Counties of Long Island. It is a respected and well recognized news publication that has been in existence since 1989. Owner, Publisher and Executive Director, Dr. Teresa Taylor Williams has been at the helm of this award-winning publication since its inception. New York Trend continues to be the only black woman-owned, metropolitan newspaper in New York and Long island. New York Trend is the largest black-owned newspaper throughout Nassau and Suffolk counties.

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