Monday, June 2, 2008

Inside the New International

I spent a morning chatting with Shawn Dahl, proprietor, with Molly Mulholland Fitch, of the new International Bar at 7th St and 1st Ave. For months now, Shawn and Molly have been working hard to put the International back together, combining, as Shawn said, “Something old, something new, something borrowed, and something blue. It’s like a marriage.” And June 18 will be the big day.


More International Bar pics on my flickr

While most of the place was gutted and dumped in a Dumpster (including the upside-down Christmas tree), much of it remains, along with pieces of other places. The vintage bar comes from the Raccoon Lodge of York Ave. The tables are a mix of International salvage and pieces from their shuttered neighbor, La Casalinga. The vintage cash register came from third-generation cash-register restorer Brian Faerman. The gold-leaf signage was done by a guy named Kirk, though some of the letters are original (RNATION). The wall sconces and much of the artwork hung in the old bar. And the graffiti on the rear windows was made by numerous bathroom-users back in the day.



Shawn and Molly are neighborhood people and hope to recreate a neighborhood bar. Said Shawn, “We want a great place for people to hang out. A living room. Just a place to come and drink.” They’ll be opening at noon to attract the thirsty locals.

Being green and economical, they’re keeping the lighting dim, and the dark purple walls and brown varnished wood create a warm, cave-like atmosphere. For those who bemoan their choice to move the bar from the right side of the room to the left, Shawn gives a rundown of the bar’s history.



The International Bar & Grill began on St. Mark’s (see 1979 photo) in the hands of Mary Petruno who moved it to its current spot when she bought the building. She put the bar on the left side of the new space. When she died in 1988, her son Michael (the “Sacred Cowboy”) took it over and moved the bar to the right side where it stayed after his death in 1992 and throughout the years when his partner, Joy Jackson, ran the place. After Joy’s death in 2002, without a will, the International and its building floated in limbo. It was sold and gutted, then sold again, this time to uber-landlord Steve Croman. The bar is actually now back in its original place.



When Molly and Shawn open on June 18, the jukebox will be filled with Molly’s favorite albums (she’s the musical one, guitar player for the rock band Glass Hand), an eclectic unexpected mix that will include: The Who Sellout, The Shaggs, Charley Pride, and REM. (I put in a request for The Smiths.) On tap, you’ll find Yuengling, Grolsch, and Stella, with Schaeffer in the can, “Nothing fancy.”

Many of the bar’s former regulars have stopped by to check it out. They generally approve of the freshening up and Shawn assures us that, while it’s cleaner than before, “It will accumulate its own grime over the years.” She hopes people will “feel as comfortable here as they did in the old seedy place.”

15 comments:

Bob said...

Schaefer in the can? Awesome! My favorite low-end beer. Real New York swill without the pretension and faux-trendiness of Pabst Blue Ribbon. I'll have to check this place out, Jeremiah. Usually it's nothing but bad news when we hear about new establishments opening their doors on this blog but for once it looks like a genuine bar with genuine ownership (and hopefully genuine patrons) is back. Quite a rarity in the East Village these days.

Sir Thomas More said...

If a yunnie ever comes in, offer them Schaeffer and tell them it's a luxe drink from Germany or Czech Republic, and serve it on a Martini glass and charge them $15-$20 for it--they'll never know what it is since they're too caught up within themselves.

Aside from the Smith's, also request The Velvet Underground, The Pixies, Stone Roses, Pulp....

Anonymous said...

I've passed by this place numerous times--I will now stop in and have a drink--good luck with the newness--I remember all the old New Internationals.

Robin said...

Faux-trendy PBR may be, but the International Bar used to sell it for $1 a can. I wasn't arguing.

Robin said...

I sit corrected, it was Milwaukee's Best!

Still not complaining.

Anonymous said...

I was a regular before it closed down. Can't wait til it opens again!

giant squid said...

I think they should have kept the jukebox they way it was; Desmond Dekkar, Elvis Costello, The Clash, The Who, James Brown, Miles Davis (If memory serves)

JB said...

International is now open, it's looking good.

Jeremiah Moss said...

thanks JB--i just came back from there, after enjoying a cold can of schaeffer. and it is looking good--and pretty cool and comfy in this heat wave, too.

Anya from London said...

If this bar is 1/2 as cool as Shawn & Molly, it'll be a very cool drinking hole, indeed. . . Cheers to the new International!

Anonymous said...

Why oh why did they replace the old jukebox ? An absolute classic collection that was. Anyone know whether they still have Milwaukee's Beast in the can? I spent many a night accumulating a tower of cans in there, one of which involved Will Ferrell buying us rounds. A bit disappointed that they now serve tap beer too.

Jeremiah Moss said...

i didn't see milwaukee there. as for the juke, if i recall correctly, i think it was lost in the initial gutting, which shawn and molly had nothing to do with. much was lost, sadly...umm...will ferrell drank there?

Ken said...

I live in London now but we (me and my friends) used to always stop by here for a couple of nightcaps.

IT IS A MUST that Al Green's "Let's Stay Together" makes it back onto the jukebox.

alan77 said...

"Like a living room".
Sure is.The new International is verrryy laid back.A good place to take a nap.And what's with the cheesy retro jukebox on the wall?That's always a bad sign. This place used to have a great old juke.
Disappointing to say the least.I was really looking forward to this place re-opening but it's very bland.Oh,well.
Back to the Blue & Gold I guess.

chris flash said...

Thanks for the update on the International. So many of my friends hung there in the 80s in both locations -- my buddy Bobby Apocalypse bartended there on First Avenue for a number of years. What struck me most about that place was hearing Edith Piaf on the jukebox!!