The Hard Swallow

We are open for business! There is outdoor and indoor dining available every day! Outdoor seating is open from 12 pm to 11pm, and indoor seating is available open to close!

HAPPY HOUR EVERY DAY 12PM to 6PM! Times are crazy but you can depend on us for hard liquor and cheap beer.

Meanwhile, you can’t say we didn’t keep it rockin through the apocalypse. We made the New York Times! Read HERE15nyvirus-les0-07-superJumbo

Check out this profile written up about us in VICE by Andrew Schwartz! CLICK HERE to read up on the vibrant, gritty, real-real history of the best dive bar in the East Village.

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Fun times in New York City might make a tourist think of Broadway shows or Chelsea galleries. But for those of us who have carved out a home in New York that we can call our own, fun times happen at the local pub. The local bar is really the heartbeat of any neighborhood. It’s where we get the news, forget the news, and sometimes make the news.

20180418_175321The Hard Swallow is a neo-dive, a sexy local rock and roll dive bar for adults. Coining the term Cheap Beer and Booze as it’s motto we feature budget friendly beer shot specials, a daily buy one get one happy hour from 8am-8pm, and a classic cocktail menu for the sophisticated palette. It’s concept is based on the real gritty dives of New York’s past, old east village favorites like Lismar Lounge, Mars Bar, Motor City and  Downtown Beirut.

The owners Big Lee and Sasha, 20181014_014816two local born and bred New Yorkers are often found going shot for shot with the regulars. Feeling alienated by the wave of trendy lounges and nightclubs that invaded the neighborhood, Big Lee created The Hard Swallow in 2015 to serve the people of the East Village and Lower East Side that were hungry for old Rock and Roll NYC. With so many favorite local dives lost, Big Lee set out to recreate the essence of his community. It’s seedy and gritty, but always open and familiar, home away from home. Where the bartender knows your name, and was serving your drink as you pulled up a stool.  This bar is all about the neighborhood and its colorful residents.

There’s no mistaking this place for a martini bar but our bartenders are skilled and ready to serve them if you want one.


Big Lee Owner and Operator- he drinks Patron, buy him and shot and say Hi!

Big Lee and Sasha

Of all the gin joints in all the towns in all the world, she walks into mine

-Rick Blaine Casablanca 1942

Dubbed local Celebs by their East Village Family, Big Lee and Sasha own The Hard Swallow as partners in business and in life. This is their story…

Introducing Big Lee


Big Lee, born September 26th, 1971, hails from the streets of Brooklyn’s infamous, Coney Island. Lee tragically lost his father, Leroy Lloyd Sr., at the tender age of 5, an experience that caused him to mature quickly. Lee held fast to the lessons his father taught him in only a brief period of his life. His father a Vietnam War veteran of the US army spoke to Lee as if he were grown. Almost as if he knew his time with him was short, he instilled in Lee what it meant to be a man, the ethic of work and providing for your family. A man gets things done, he is strong, and doesn’t cry. Known as a child, for his wise opinions, anecdotes and old soul mentality, his grandmother dubbed him “The Preacher Man”.

As a child Lee found a friend, confidant, and mentor in his step father Ronald whom he credits for much of his creativity, his fathering skills, and eclectic taste in music. His experiences with Ronald sculpted his imagination and hunger for creative outlets. Lee grew up in the heart of the 70’s when sex, music, and parties were all the rage and Ronald was all about it. He introduced Lee to the sounds of Jimi Hendrix, Black Sabbath, Led Zepplin, and of course George Clinton, while his mother influenced him with the pain and romance of soul. He enjoyed playing with his stepfather, watching Godzilla on the TV, and Horror films. He loved catching Kung Fu and Grind House Horror flicks in the theatres on 42nd street. Times Square in the 70’s was not family friendly. Lee recalls the streets clad with hookers and junkies who would proposition him even though he was only a child.  In his teens years Lee indulged his creative juices in photography and attended the High School of Graphic Arts in Hell’s Kitchen. It wasn’t long before he and his buddy Les turned their hobby into a money making business, and a cool way to meet girls. While good at his craft life once again knocked on Lees door and forced him to leave his childhood behind to work to provide for himself as he was on his own at only 16 yrs old.

Lee’s resilience was strong; he began his path in retail, starting in the stockroom but was quickly recognized for his leadership abilities and promoted to management. Here is where he learned the ins and outs of business. Managing and staffing, became 2nd nature to him and he grew bored of the redundancy of Retail. The inner Lee still craved that creative outlet, and so he left retail and became a nightclub Bouncer at Coney Island High in 1997. He had hoped his new position would to allow him more time to write and inspire him with new material. But Lee absorbed the Nightlife like a sponge. He lived it, breathed it and one day the bar that he worked in, Hogs and Heifers uptown, afforded him an opportunity that he couldn’t pass up. They offered him a chance to buy the club but he only had one week to figure out what that entailed and to find investors to make it happen. With his back against the wall Lee found them and in 2004 Wild Spirits was born. His brainchild was influenced by his days at Coney Island High, personalities of Hogs and Heifers, the sultry seduction of the 70’s, “Forty Duce” (old skool Times Square) and of course CBGB’s. He incorporated his eclectic taste in music and bridged communities with his playlists. He showcased local bands, hosted open mics, and fused the raunchy flavors of Sex, Rock, and Booze. In 2008 Lee closed the doors to Wild Spirits after the construction of the 2nd Avenue train station proved to be a hardship for himself and many other bars and restaurants in the area. The traffic congestion and loss of foot traffic made the destination bar and live music venue almost impossible to book, like many others he conceded. He became a father and he returned to work at Hogs and Heifers. In the Summer of 2015 as Hogs and Heifers closed their doors, opportunity Knocked on his door again together with his Sasha The Hard Swallow was born. He didn’t know the at the time how this venture would test his skill, determination and endurance, but as he continues to fight for his piece of the pie, his passion and will grows stronger and plans for the future continue to grow along with it.

Ladies and germs….. Sasha

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Sasha was born and raised on the Lower East side when there was no East Village it was ALL LES, an area her family has called home for over 50 years. She was born to teen age parents in 1981 but raised by her grandmother as Maria Torres. The lower east side in the 80’s was not the hipster, artsy fartsy area it has become. In the 80’s if you went to the lower east side it was either to party or to score. The streets were filled with junkies, Tompkins Square Park was overrun with squatters and the live music scene was loud and obnoxious.  It wasn’t a safe place for a kid to play ball or ride your bike in the street. Dealers ran the streets and sold drugs from your building lobby. Prostitutes and junkies occupied abandoned tenements and the rats were so overpopulated they’d scurry past your feet in broad daylight. This is where Sasha grew up, one block from ABC No Rio and 2 blocks from the Nightclub The Bank. Sasha’s beginnings were far from humble. The chaos of the streets spilled over to her home life and Sasha dealt with the realities of  abuse, a drug addicted mother and abandonment. Although her grandparents did what they believed was best for her, Sasha struggled with relating to them as her experiences were sculpting different views and sadly they were not able to adapt.

Sasha was a bright child who wasn’t allowed to play outside or socialize with friends, so she indulged herself in her violin and academic achievements. Despite being an A student and even playing her violin at Carnegie Hall, the abuse she endured over the years eventually took its toll. She lost the fire she had built up and she crumbled. Sasha rebelled. At only 14 yrs old she was on her own, homeless and living a gypsy existence bouncing from friend’s couches, to rooftops, and park benches. Sasha went on an angry rampage against the world and ultimately against herself. With no regard or respect for conformity, she pierced her nose, tongue, and eyebrows, dyed her hair a rainbow of colors and no longer cared what her family or anyone else had to say. All she worried about was trying to get into the clubs. The world that her grandmother barred her from was right outside but Sasha would not give up chasing the party.

After high school Sasha marks her 1999 road trip to Wood Stock as one of the best experiences of her life. She was a young adult doing it on her own. At 19 she had a son, Nicholas who filled the void of family for Sasha. She calmed down, she left her college studies and went to beauty school, got a bartenders certification and worked tirelessly to provide her son with everything she never had. When she met Big Lee in 2006, she was juggling 3 jobs, bartending, managing a hair salon, and working in her son’s school as a part time lunch lady. She bartended at a few different places but earned her stripes at an underground dive bar in Staten Island, with frequent bar fights that ended in shots (not the alcohol kind). She likens her work at Wild Spirits to her time at Wood Stock. She loved working there just much as she loved the man who created it. Lee taught her everything she needed to know to manage the bar, entertain the patrons and hone her skills as a Star-tender. She wasn’t Maria anymore. Big Lee gave her a new persona and she became Lady Nympho, a loud aggressive bar host and manager that relished in total rock sexploitation. In 2008 when Wild Spirits closed Sasha laid Lady Nympho to rest with it, but not without first having discovered herself. Making peace with her past and with Lee’s love and support, she learned how her past sculpted her into the badass no shit taking woman she had grown to be. While Lee went back to work at Hogs and Heifers, Sasha shifted her focus to raise their family while continuing to plan and support her husband from the sidelines. Sasha helped Lee to keep the momentum of Wild Spirits alive by planning and hosting promotional parties at various bars throughout the East Village. When the opportunity to purchase Cheap Shots NYC came along Sasha was ready to get back in the saddle and you can find her bartending on Saturday nights


Drink Slingers

Characters welcome! Our carefully selected crew of alchemists and Chemists keep the party going with their undercover mixology, and loud personalities. They’re here to serve you, listen to you and for some of you, berate you, sedate you but never coddle you.



An OG East Village Rock and Roll icon, Storm is either slingin the drinks, drinkin the drinks, or singing her heart out with her band Broken Time Machine. If you don’t know Storm, you don’t know the east village.



Kay Day

She’s our very own super botch! She’s a rockstar on stage and behind the bar–and definitely a comedian too, she’ll serve you drinks and laughs with her raunchy wild sense of humour. 




The queen herself. Nuff said. But really, nobody runs a bar like Sasha–she’ll make you feel at home with a shot and a beer, and read you for filth if you get out of line, and you’ll probably like it. She makes a killer cocktail and even better company! 




Alaska is our sweetheart with a bit of a bite–their drink specialty is shot and a beer, and they’ll serve it to you with a healthy dose of sass. Come find out why they came down to NYC from the great big north–the answer will definitely surprise you.


Ms Heather

Ms Heather

Former Bikini Model and active weight trainer Ms Heather brings beauty, strength and Southern charm to the bar. She commands the room every shift she works, she loves to hear your stories and makes a proper Negroni. Whatever you’re looking for you won’t be disappointed when this woman serves you.





Triple threat over here–he can sling a shot, shoot the shit, and serve you the tea. Mo is our newest addition to the bar, and a long time east village bartender. Apparently they can also play a mean game of pool.

The Gate Keepers

They don’t care who you are, how old you are, or why you’re here, show your ID or kick rocks!

Biglee: ID please?
Customer: wow so at 85 yrs old i need to produce ID?
Father Vincent: well look at it like this when you croak we need to be able to identify the body

Father Vincent

Father Vincent

The Legendary God Father of NYC Nightlife. Modest and unassuming Father Vincent in well known to a vast community of nightlife industry people and NYC subcultures. Having worked and partied at the infamous venues of New Yorks club scene, like Mother’s , The Limelight, The Palladium and many others, has bought him a love and respect from all who know him. A respect that afforded him the Title of Father among others that we’ll let him tell you about. You can find him at our door on Monday’s and Wednesday’s, or hosting Dark water on Tuesday’s at Otto’s Shrunken Head.

Hours and Location


Open Everyday including holidays:

Sunday                12:00 PM – 4:00 AM

Monday              12:00 PM – 4:00 AM

Tuesday            12:00 PM – 4:00 AM

Wednesday      12:00 PM – 4:00 AM

Thursday        12:00 PM – 4:00 AM

Friday              12:00 PM – 4:00 AM

Saturday          12:00 PM – 4:00 AM

140 First Avenue

New York, NY 10009

THS Map 2