The Rum House in the Edison Hotel closed last night--not on September 30, as previously believed--after losing their lease earlier this summer. The place had been on 47th Street off Times Square for 37 years and the original owner's grandson was still working the bar.
Recently named one of the Best Bars in America by Esquire, the most enticing description of it comes from New York magazine: "a veneer of sleaze sets it a world apart from your classic martini-doling hotel bar...it's one of the few remaining destinations near Times Square where a middle-aged lush from Dubuque can go to drown his sorrows in cheap liquor and plastic bowls of pretzels."
I'd never been to the Rum House before, so I hustled up there to see it before it vanished. Indeed, it did appear to be full of the sort of person you might call "a middle-aged lush from Dubuque." Quiet at first, the place soon filled with rowdy tourists who like to drink. Not fancy tourists, either. More the type with not a lot of money to spend, hellbent on having a big time in the Big Apple as best they could.
The Yankees-Red Sox game was on the television and folks were rooting for New York. Budweiser beer bottles piled up in crowded huddles on the tables. The jukebox blasted Van Morrison--singer Karen Brown had abandoned her piano already, back in May, and without a singalong, the place lacked the something-special vibe its regulars once raved about.
Dark and dingy, the room was brown all over, in that way that bars used to be brown, as if the air itself had turned the color of tea. Whatever comes next to this space probably won't be so brown.
As the third-generation bartender told Fork in the Road, "There are rumors that they're going to gut the place and make it shiny, and update it and brighten it up."
And so it goes.