Tag Archives: speakeasy

Update about Notorious NYC bar Chumley’s from pal Ephriam

I am fascinated with this mysterious bar formerly frequented by poets, writers, bootleggers and miscreants – plus served as s top of sorts on the underground railroad (not sure how this shakes down but…) and a speakeasy during prohibition.

Had hoped to visit with my pal Ephriam in NYC in around 2006 but the building next it (owned by renowned photographer Annie Lebowitz apparently no less) had fallen in on the structure during remodelling/renovations construction. By the time the damage was repaired, the area had become rather “gentrified” with whiny neighbours complaining about potential noise. Eph-man keeps an eye on the story for me and it seems it is now re-opened (as of Dec 30th 2017). Trip ahoy!

See the “Consider Perusing” section for previous articles about this humble and noble location.

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Today’s Facebook moment is dedicated to my friend Dave Olson. Almost 10 years ago we were on our way to Chumley’s only to find that it fell apart. Hopefully this pic will put a smile on Dave’s face. Glad to hear that it will reopen and not be 86’d forever.

Legendary Chumleys' in NYC

Source: Ephraim Diament – Today’s Facebook moment is dedicated to my…

Chumley’s Speakeasy in NYC – currently a shell – to re-open … one of these days

My on the ground West Greenwich connection pointed out this article “Belly Up! Old Hemingway Haunt Chumley’s Could Reopen by Spring – City inches toward approving wrecked Village watering hole’s restoration” in NY Observer (Dec. 3rd 2007 edition which is in 4 days).

My attempt to drink at this noted literary haunt which oozes with counter-culture history from the underground railroad to prohibition to dog laws (damn health authorities), was thwarted by de-construction and i was met by a mass of scaffolding rather than a tasty pint. You can follow along on my ill-fated, personalized tour at: NYC Speakeasy Stroll with Bubble Bands and Falafel Bars – Choogle on #45.

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[photo Wally G The interior of Chumley’s, pre-collapse.]

So what’s going on? A conundrum betwixt landlord, leaseholders, building permits and neighbors and drinkers … here’s a snippet fromt he Observer article by Chris Shott,

Choogle on! in NYCNearly eight months after a brick wall collapsed, forcing famed Greenwich Village tavern Chumley’s to indefinitely lock up its notably unmarked entrance, the once illustrious literary haunt remains a mere shell of its former self.

Barely a shell, even; the old bar is beyond gutted.

“A gutted building implies that there are walls standing,” said Steve Shlopak, proud proprietor of the former Prohibition-era speakeasy turned fully liquor-licensed landmark turned much-lamented pile of rubble at 86 Bedford Street.

“There are only two walls that are still up,” Mr. Shlopak said. “The rest of the building is held up with construction scaffolding. There is no ceiling and there is no floor; it’s just a dirt hole.

“It’s almost as if you’re watching an old World War II film,” he added. “You know how soldiers would gather in the corner of a bombed-out farmhouse where just two walls are still up? That’s what we’ve got here.”

I took the liberty of commenting at the Observer’s remarkably decent site, thusly (pardon the redundancy):

As an enthusiast of tasty beer and quality literature, I was disappointed to find the scaffolding surrounding the building on a recent trip from Vancouver BC. I recorded a Choogle on! podcast while out and about in the village so all was not lost (i love falafel at 3AM). I’ll be watching for the reopen and hope to make another trip east from the idyllic left coast to imbibe a few pints in the legendary atmosphere.

Mysterious Speakeasy in Greenwich Village

I am headed to NYC next month for a biz-ness trip (staying a fancy mid-town hotel shockingly enough) and my amigo out there pointed me to the private stash of all bars boasting a history of runaway slaves, literary heroes, illicit alcohol and haunting poltergeists. I am totally going.

Heck, I even made google map to the secret libation locale (though i’ll probably still have to find the stealthy entrance in the alley).

The bar is up for sale (3.75 million USD in case you are wondering) and the place doesn’t necessarily have a name. ‘Chumley’s‘ or ’86 Bedford’ seem to be the parlance of choice.

Anyhow, here is a snippet from the article 86 Bedford Street in NY Resident magazine by Rachel B. Doyle filling in the pieces of the stories,

Despite the building going on the block, Chumley’s isn’t going anywhere since its lease isn’t up until 2085. Touted as “the oldest speakeasy in the country to retain its original ambiance,” Chumley’s has been around since 1926 —when it was purchased by Leland Stanford Chumley, who remodeled the front of the former blacksmith’s shop with innocuous garage-like doors.

Behind this obscure facade, lay the favorite illicit watering hole of literary luminaries such as F. Scott Fitzgerald, William Faulkner, Jack Kerouac, Norman Mailer, Anaïs Nin, Simone de Beauvoir and J.D. Salinger (before he became a recluse). The original incarnation contained kitchen entrances disguised as bookshelves, two trapdoors to conceal spirits, and a trick staircase designed to foil the police.

“It’s supposed to give the illusion that we’re in a basement, when in reality we’re on street level. It allowed the bartenders some time to clear away alcohol during Prohibition,” said John Lefebvre, a waiter at Chumley’s.

The entrance remains the same as it was in the ‘20s: unmarked and only accessible by a clandestine rear passageway leading from Barrow Street. And Chumley’s will likely never have a sign, as landmark designation restricts anything having to do with physical changes.

A little known fact about 86 Bedford St. is that its seditious reputation actually precedes Prohibition. According to legend, the building was also a refuge for runaway slaves – due in part to it’s proximity to Gay Street, which had a large pre-Civil War era free black community.

“In the floor of the bar there is a trapdoor that lifts up. These same tunnels that may have been used to transport slaves were later used to transport the alcohol into the restaurant during Prohibition,” said Lefebvre, who also just completed a documentary about Chumley’s. “I’m looking right at it.”

While some reviews speak disparagingly about the Chumley’s micro brews (flat and lifeless) and the meat heads (read fratboys) who have found the enclave (to high five in) while others mention the proximity to a firehall which suffered major casualties during the WTC incident or the discussion if this is where the term “getting 86’ed” originated and yet one more talks about the dog patrons – (geez i though it was just Oly’s Eastside Club which allowed dogs) – in a post What’s up with the dogs at Chumley’s?

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Here’s the door – is there a secret knock?

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