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Thread: Chumley's Bar - 86 Bedford Street - Greenwich Village

  1. #1

    Default Chumley's Bar - 86 Bedford Street - Greenwich Village

    It appears that from the netting, sidewalk bridge, etc. on the old house on the left (with the dormers) that it will be razed. I really hope not. It appears to date from about the 1830s. What philistine (besides Sam Chang) would have the gall to destroy it?

    I would love to see the piece of junk on the corner bull dozed though.

    Last edited by londonlawyer; April 5th, 2007 at 05:01 PM.

  2. #2


    If it's in the historic district, and it likely is, then there is no way it is coming down. It's probably just being fixed up.

  3. #3


    Quote Originally Posted by sfenn1117 View Post
    If it's in the historic district, and it likely is, then there is no way it is coming down. It's probably just being fixed up.
    Thanks. That's good news. I was about to have a heart attack.

  4. #4
    Build the Tower Verre antinimby's Avatar
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    ^ Notice sfenn said "If," meaning it might not be in a historic district.

    Now go back to having your attack again.

  5. #5


    Quote Originally Posted by antinimby View Post
    ^ Notice sfenn said "If," meaning it might not be in a historic district.

    Now go back to having your attack again.
    I'm coming, Elizabeth!

  6. #6


    If it's true, then this is a big shame. There should be an automatic blanket prohibition on demolition of buildings over 150 years old.

  7. #7 Front_Porch's Avatar
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    Default RIP, Chumley's?

    So was anybody from wny on-site? The gossip on curbed seems to indicate this one is never coming back . . . sniffle.

    ali r.
    {downtown broker}

  8. #8
    Build the Tower Verre antinimby's Avatar
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    I loathe Sam Chang and Gene Kaufman and H. Thomas O'Hara and Peter Poon.

  9. #9
    Build the Tower Verre antinimby's Avatar
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    None Hurt, and Another Tale Added, in Collapse at Storied Village Bar

    Published: April 6, 2007

    Part of a wall collapsed yesterday in a popular Greenwich Village restaurant and onetime speakeasy where literary giants like John Steinbeck and F. Scott Fitzgerald once gathered.

    Officials in the Fire and Buildings Departments said workers were repairing a wall at the restaurant, Chumley’s, when an attached chimney collapsed about 1 p.m. No one was injured.

    Fire officials said the building, at 86 Bedford Street, would be closed indefinitely, until the wall was stabilized.

    The collapse forced the evacuation of three adjoining buildings. Residents of 10 apartments in them were affected, the Red Cross said.

    Chumley’s and the other affected buildings — at 82 Bedford Street and 56 and 58 Barrow Street — form a horseshoe with a common courtyard.

    Not long after the collapse, neighbors gathered outside the bar and talked about the good times they had had there. Some spoke of an old dog that used to lie on the barroom floor, indifferent to the patrons laughing loudly or tossing back mugs of beer.

    Snowflakes fell upon the old speakeasy as firefighters stood staring into its now dusty guts.

    “That wall is in trouble,” said Chief Jay Jonas of the Fire Department. “It’s unstable.” He then smiled a bit, reminiscing on Chumley’s fabled past.

    Leleand Chumley opened his speakeasy in 1922, replete with secret passageways and back-alley entrances. To this day, the bar has no sign.

    Like any decent speakeasy, Chumley’s used its sneaky escape routes in case the police made one of their regular visits to enforce Prohibition.

    One of those escape routes, a fake bookcase in the front of the bar that opens out onto an alley, is still functional, although these days, the only people sneaking in and out are the waiters and waitresses who use it as a quick route between the front of the bar and the kitchen in the back.

    But Chumley’s has legend and myth and a history as its fingerprint. Luminaries like E. E. Cummings and Willa Cather spent time on stools at Chumley’s, as did Allen Ginsberg and Norman Mailer and other writers — their marks remembered in the dust jackets from hundreds of their books that still line the walls.

    And there’s also the occasional literary or drinking tours that visits the bar to soak up both literary history and suds.

    Large photos of some of Chumley’s favorite patrons, including Ring Lardner and Eugene O’Neill, grace its walls like grainy ghosts from a bygone era. But yesterday, Chumley’s looked more like a rebel in the winter of its life, an aging, hunched old man, than the spirited character it has been known as.

    Several tourists, shifting their gaze from pocket maps to the scene on the other side of the yellow tape and back to the maps, asked for directions to Chumley’s.

    One visitor who needed no map was Tom Copeland, a photographer from Greensboro, N. C., who was on vacation with his family. He stood opposite Chumley’s, his wife, Llewellyn, and his twins, Callie and Graham, 8, a few feet behind him.

    “I’ve been telling my wife and kids about this place,” he said. “The beer is great, and that old dog on the ground just lying there.”

    He reached into his pocket, still smiling, still disappointed, pulling out a piece of paper torn from a notepad. “This,” he said, “was our itinerary:”

    9 a.m.: movies.

    10 a.m.: Macy’s and Rockefeller Center

    12 noon: Central Park.

    5 p.m.: Chumley’s

    Don Silva, an actor who lives nearby, described a series of occurrences over the last few months involving construction. He said that last May, nine people were evacuated after workers removing part of a fireplace at 82 Bedford Street caused structural damage, and seven or eight people left after a similar incident not long afterward.

    Copyright 2007The New York Times Company

  10. #10


    Belly Up! Old Hemingway Haunt Chumley’s Could Reopen by Spring

    by Chris Shott Published: November 27, 2007

    The interior of Chumley’s, pre-collapse.

    Nearly 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.”

    But is the battle nearly over?

    The firmly entrenched bar owner, whose current 99-year lease doesn’t expire until 2086, has lately softened his stance toward much-maligned landlord Margaret Streicker Porres, whose previously planned facade repairs he once publicly denounced as a mere ploy to evict the bar and demolish the old brick building.

    Ms. Streicker Porres has developed a reputation for such heavy-handed tactics. Perhaps most notably, her efforts to displace rent-stabilized tenants at four dilapidated buildings on West 22nd Street earned her a place on The Village Voice’s 10 Worst Landlords list last year. And she has done little to downplay her infamy since acquiring Chumley’s and two adjacent apartment buildings for $6.9 million in 2004, ultimately driving out all but two rent-stabilized tenants of those properties.

    Just last month, a Manhattan judge slapped Ms. Streicker Porres and her partners with a $200,000 fine, court records show, for (a) failing to resolve various housing-code violations at 84 Bedford Street, located right next door to Chumley’s; (b) failing to file comprehensive plans for restoring that building; and (c) failing to even show up for an Oct. 18 court date.

    Ms. Streicker Porres has since challenged that judgement, arguing that the building was “effectively demolished” following a 2006 chimney collapse, which precipitated Chumley’s own wall buckling in April of this year, and further asserting that repairs were “economically unfeasible.” That case resumes on Dec. 18.

    Mr. Shlopak has tangled with the landlord on multiple occasions himself, over both reconstruction and the bar’s monthly $17,613 rent, though now, according to the bar owner, “everybody seems to be cooperating.”

    That includes the city’s Buildings Department, which has pressured Ms. Streicker Porres to restore the wrecked watering hole, located in a protected historic district, and recently ordered tests of its foundation. If the ancient site is deemed sturdy enough—a pretty big if, given the 19th-century building’s shaky history—then Chumley’s long-awaited reconstruction could soon begin. Finally.

    “They’re gearing up to go,” the landlord’s spokesman, George Arzt, told The Observer on Monday. “The permits have been issued. There will be coordination meetings with the Buildings Department this week.”

    “Hopefully, they will come to a relevant decision in a day or two and not take their time on it,” said the weary bar owner, Mr. Shlopak. “We want to get Chumley’s open as soon as possible.”

    Various delays, in addition to the landlord-tenant squabbles, have hindered the bar’s rebuilding. “It seems a new requirement comes up every week,” Mr. Shlopak said.

    His initial hopes to reopen this past June were first pushed back to August, then October, then Thanksgiving. Now, who knows? Maybe March.

    “Let’s assume that everything went on a pants-on-fire schedule and they start construction by Dec. 1,” Mr. Shlopak said. “It’s going to take them at least 60 days to do their part. And then it’s going to take us 30 days to get the inside put back in.”

    All of Chumley’s old furnishings and decorations—most notably the many photographs and framed book sleeves of the legendary authors who reputedly patronized the place, such as F. Scott Fitzgerald, Ernest Hemingway and J.D. Salinger—remain in storage, awaiting the structural repairs.

    “We will get it back together,” pledged Mr. Shlopak. “We’re also hopeful that negotiations will soon begin with the landlord for us to purchase the building.”

    The landlord has been trying to unload the three-story Chumley’s building since long before its highly publicized collapse.

    “There was a huge influx of calls when it first happened from a lot of bottom feeders looking to take advantage of what they thought was a distressed situation,” said James Nelson of Massey Knakal Realty Services, who is marketing the property. “But ownership wasn’t looking to fire-sale the property.”

    Despite the disclosed “structural issues,” the landlord has not budged from her original $3.75 million asking price.

    Mr. Shlopak declined to say how much he would be willing to pay for the property. He is currently seeking investors.

    In the meantime, the bar owner has been doing his best to entertain the many tour groups that still stop by the famous nightspot’s ruins each week.

    “We actually hand out fliers and pictures to them,” he said, “so at least they don’t go on their walking tours in vain.”

    Copyright © 2007 The New York Observer

  11. #11



  12. #12
    Moderator NYatKNIGHT's Avatar
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    Let's meet for a Labrador Lager when it opens.

  13. #13


    Still No Bar to Belly Up To. Maybe Soon.

    Published: August 29, 2008

    It began as a substantial but straightforward building repair job. It dragged on as another problem turned up, and then another and another. All the while the architects and engineers scrambled to come up with solutions, directing the contractors to put new floor joists here, a new wall there, a new foundation out front.

    Andrea Mohin/The New York Times
    Chumley’s this month. A wall collapsed there in April 2007.

    A complicated cast of characters watched and waited and gave approvals: a landlord, the man who bought the lease on the storied bar in the building, and the two firefighters who started as part-time bartenders and say they ended up as partners with him.

    That is where things stand at Chumley’s, the famed bar on Bedford Street that was a speakeasy during Prohibition and, more recently, a beery place that was clean enough but never well lighted. It was a hangout for writers like Ernest Hemingway and E. E. Cummings and a coming-of-age destination for generations of New York University students. It was, and is, a destination for tourists whose guidebooks tell of its secret passageways and its back-alley entrances.

    Once, the tourists wondered if they were in the right place, because Chumley’s never had a sign out front. Now they wonder because, despite what their guidebooks say, Chumley’s is closed. There has been no bar to belly up to since a wall collapsed in April 2007.

    After the collapse, Chumley’s owners said the taps would be open again — soon. They said the booths and tables and the photographs that had lined the walls, all removed and carefully packed up after the collapse, would be back in place — soon.

    But weeks went by, and then months. Now some Chumley’s regulars walk down the leafy block on Bedford Street and see that construction-zone signs are still posted outside. They notice the new wall at the front of the building and the workers in hard hats inside. They wonder how long it will take Chumley’s to reopen and, by the way, how long it will take for that unforgettable stale-beer smell to come back, or if it ever will.

    “It’s been a little bit like peeling a bad onion,” said Jim Miller, one of the firefighter-partners. “Every three months, we thought we were three months out, but as they moved around the building, they encountered problems.”

    The landlord, Margaret Streicker Porres, chose simple words that anyone who has ever been sucked into a renovation-from-hell could surely echo: “This has been an unfolding process.”

    She said the most recent timetable called for the work to be completed in “midfall of this year.” But the contractors discovered still more problems earlier this month, and she said the architects and engineers had been conferring with the Buildings Department. Mr. Miller said he now hoped Chumley’s would reopen early next spring — “or, if we’re lucky, late winter.”

    “They were always going to put up a new facade,” he said, standing across Bedford Street, looking at the new front wall. The old facade “was always in bad enough disrepair that it needed to go down and come back up.”

    But far more work turned out to be necessary, including a new roof and a second wall.

    “When you step back and realize the problems that they’ve encountered — look, I don’t do this for a living, all I can do is tell you it’s been explained to us every step of the way and we’ve never had cause to doubt,” Mr. Miller said. “If somebody takes you up to a wall and says, ‘Look, you can put your hand through it,’ you just take what they’re saying and accept it.”

    There was also asbestos that had to be removed, Ms. Streicker Porres said, and a part of the basement that that had to be rebuilt. The foundation in the front, below the new facade, had to be replaced. And that was just in the front of the building. Ms. Streicker Porres said structural integrity had turned out to be a problem in the middle and the rear sections. “The conditions there are as bad or worse than what happened in the front of the building,” she said.

    She said her engineers had given Buildings Department officials information on structural tests of the middle and rear parts of the building.

    A spokeswoman for the department, Kate Lindquist, said that permits were issued last November for the building’s reconstruction. “It was in rough shape,” she said, “but the owner has a team in place, and they’re working and we’re working to make sure it’s done safely.”

    But that only means more waiting for Mr. Miller and the other firefighters from Engine 24 and Ladder 5 of Battalion 2 on the Avenue of the Americas at West Houston Street. They arrived in 1994, not long after three men from the company were trapped in a burning apartment at 62 Watts Street. One died in the flames. Another died the next day. The third, Capt. John J. Drennan, died after nearly six weeks in a hospital burn unit.

    Captain Drennan had been an off-duty regular at Chumley’s, Mr. Miller said, and had been close to Steve Shlopak, who he said had taken over the bar in the 1980s. “We grew close to Chumley’s,” Mr. Miller said, “and Steve asked a few guys to come by and cover some bartending shifts while he moved some personnel around and filled some holes. We said sure, it sounds like fun.”

    At first, a handful of firefighters moonlighted as bartenders. In time, the roster grew to as many as 10.

    “We filled the holes” in Chumley’s schedule, Mr. Miller said, “and we found a home there, and we never left.”

    Mr. Miller said he did the scheduling himself, figuring out which firefighters would be off duty when Chumley’s needed someone. One of them was Firefighter Robert Beddia, whom Mr. Miller called “the original happy fireman-bartender at Chumley’s.”

    Firefighter Beddia spent more than 20 years at Engine 24 and Ladder 5 and was one of two firefighters from the company killed in the fire at the former Deutsche Bank building a year ago.

    Chumley’s is a 10-minute walk from the firehouse. Mr. Miller went by the other day and said that from the look of things, much work remained to be done.

    “The chef, he’s here 47 years; he calls me weekly: ‘When do you need me to come back?’ ” he said. “Everyone’s anxious to come back to work, but the public’s more anxious than we are.”

    Copyright 2008 The New York Times Company

  14. #14

    Default Any updates?

    I am rarely in that part of town, but really miss this place. Does anyone have any updates?

  15. #15

    Default update on Chumley's

    For those of us interested in the latest goings-on re Chumley's in the West Village: about a month ago, restoration work was stopped at this historic, gorgeously old building by the Department of Buildings. Why, I'm not sure but when I pass by there again either today or tomorrow, I will have more information. kidblast

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