SMALL BUSINESS AWARD
Eduardo “Eddie” Valentin
and Casimiro Villa
Va l e n t i n
are the co-owners of
Friends Tavern, an
LGBTQ Latin bar in
Jackson Heights that
has operated since 1989.
Casimiro and Eddie
started Friend’s Tavern as
a neighborhood bar, but the
establishment’s success translated
into an expanded clientele that included
individuals from across the city and around
the world — including folks forced to flee
persecution in their home countries. With a
friendly staff and a vibrant atmosphere, the bar
has become a mainstay in the community.
Casimiro and Eddie each carved out their own
respective paths leading to their ownership of
the bar. Casimiro is a Colombian immigrant
who moved to New York in 1968, first starting
as a laborer in manufacturing plants while
simultaneously taking classes to learn English.
He went on to work at Stouffer’s restaurant on
Fifth Avenue before spending 15 years working at
Pan-American Airways. Prior to the emergence
of cell phones, he opened his first business,
Tele-Express, to help New Yorkers call and send
money to their families in Latin America.
In the meantime, Casimiro saved enough
money to fulfill a dream of starting a gay-owned
bar with bilingual staff, and he put an emphasis
on cleanliness after he noticed many other
LGBTQ bars — particularly those that were not
owned by members of the queer community —
were not appropriately maintained.
A year and a half after he founded the bar,
Casimiro met Eddie, sparking a new chapter
in the bar’s history and paving the way for the
partnership that remains strong today. Eddie was
born in Williamsburg to Puerto Rican parents
who purchased a home in Ridgewood, Queens,
where they raised him and his five siblings. Eddie
became as a tutor and worked jobs in financial
planning and at the United Nations.
Casimiro and Eddie set out to make the bar as
friendly as possible — hence the name Friend’s
Tavern — and to carry out that mission they
hired extra staff to keep the establishment
in top condition for
The bar also
has also played an
important role in
service messages in
the community. The
team at Friend’s Tavern
has worked with the New
York City Department of Health
and Mental Hygiene to push for HIV
testing and counseling and to promote the HIV
prevention drug known as PrEP. The bar also
donates costumes to kids in the neighborhood
on Halloween, helps sponsor the LGBTQ prom in
Queens, and supports toy drives for orphanages.
During the coronavirus pandemic, Friend’s
Tavern played host to the Love Wins Food Pantry.
The bar has been a source of consistency
in an ever-changing city landscape: The only
times Friend’s Tavern closed its doors were
for renovations in 2013 and for three months
during the coronavirus pandemic when they
had no choice but to shut down.
Now Friend’s Tavern is entering a new
phase. With support from Steve Garibell of
TD Bank, Tom Grech of the Queens Chamber
of Commerce, and Assemblymember Catalina
Cruz of Queens, Casimiro and Eddie are
purchasing the building that houses their bar.
www.gaycitynews.com | 2021 Impact Awards 5