Believing the Upper West Side's P&G bar would close on December 31, I visited this weekend to say goodbye. But the bartender informed me they'll probably linger on until sometime in February--the new place isn't ready just yet. He also reported that their sign, that beloved antique neon that everyone hopes will survive, probably won't be going with them. It's too old, too brittle to make the journey.
On Saturday the New York Times also visited the P&G, wondering if its patrons will follow the classic dive to its new, larger, and more deluxe location. Glenn Collins writes:
"The future P&G, with its 2,700-square-foot public space, is three times as large as the old 860-square-foot bar, has four rooms and will offer a fireplace for the poolroom-and-dartboard set. A rusticated structural wall will be an ornament, instead of the kitschy Austrian castle and forest fantasy mural signed in 1943 by a rye-drinking artist who executed the scene to pay his bar tab. Some regular customers worry about being dispossessed. “'I’ll feel out the new place,' said Patrick Duffy, a stagehand who has been a regular for more than a decade. 'But we don’t know if the new place is for us--we’re old school.'”
As the Observer noted last month, the new place will be a full restaurant, where bags of Doritos will be replaced by storied steaks and chops, along with gourmet burgers. Said owner Chahalis, “I make these awesome teriyaki garlic-saffron-rubbed burgers.”
There was nothing rubbed with saffron when I visited. Decked out for the holidays, the bar was hung with Christmas stockings, names of regulars written on them in glue and glitter. As I sipped my final drink, gray-haired men (mostly) stood outside smoking. Younger men, in jeans and work boots, came inside shouting about baseball and football, their faces unshaven. A woman in a black beret sat on the corner stool, not saying much, just drinking.
These old-schoolers just don't seem like saffron-rubbed people. And without them, without that gorgeous neon sign, without the cracked and peeling 1943 mural of the Austrian forest, let's face it: The P&G is going to vanish.