Zagat says it's been there for 81 years. Others say since 1947 or sometime in the 1950s. Either way, Milady's has been around for a long time. And now it's gone.
All photos courtesy of Gudrun Georges
E.V. Grieve shared the Twitter rumor on Saturday that the bar would be closing--along with a realtor's listing for the building that advertises: "Building has been completely gut-renovated... will be delivered vacant. Incredible opportunity for luxury residential conversion."
The rumor of the closing turned out to be true. Last night was Milady's last call.
Reader Lois went in to Milady's early yesterday with her husband to say goodbye. She reported: "The crowds trickled in. People were drinking beer and shots of whiskey. Making toasts. Everyone was upset and talking about the closing. Some were crying. I saw one older woman walk in, talk to the bartender, and shout FUCK! when she heard the news. The bartender said they were just told on Friday about the closing. She said the landlord refused to renew their lease. One lonely looking guy at the bar just kept saying, 'I'm devastated, totally devastated.' It was a sad day."
By the late afternoon, it was "a regular Irish funeral," said reader Daniel. He reported: "the scene is teary but full of village stalwarts and so good cheer abounds despite the fucking calamity of losing this bar. my mother, who's been coming here since '73 is a mess. she doesn't where she's gonna go now. it's plain old sad as hell."
At night, Milady's was packed, running out of beer, and six packs were being brought in from the delis across the street, tweeted Robert O. Simonson. Still, the funeral party went on into the deep morning hours.
Reader Lisamarie Grosso, a long-time bartender at Milady's, let us know that the bar "has been owned and operated by the same Italo-American family for 60 or so years. Neighbors used to refer to it as 'the Frank Sinatra Bar' because of the many photos of Old Blue Eyes hanging on the walls. The massive avocado plant in the window that faces Thompson Street was grown from a seed by the owner's Mom. She's long gone. The plant remains."
In 1982, Frank Genovese bought the place. The Times reported in 1992 that Frank "grew up a few blocks from the bar, and later worked there." He told the paper, "I thought of making this place much fancier than it is. But then in my experience the chi-chi places make a lot of money for a very short time -- but then?"
Milady's was not a fancy chi-chi place. It was a dive, a neighborhood bar, an Italian joint dating back to when this part of Soho was still considered the Italian South Village. (For many, the boundaries remain highly contested today.) Madonna ate there. So did Sylvester Stallone. Connie Francis was on the jukebox and Frank Sinatra's portrait hung on the wall.
In more recent years, the Zagat description summed it up well--"a magnet for rent-stabilized locals," "some wonder how it survives":
In today's New York, nothing affordable, nothing old, nothing for the rent-stabilized locals is allowed to survive. And what's to come? We can imagine something chi-chi, something that will make a lot of money for a very short time, and then shutter. The long line of history has been broken.
See more from Gudrun Georges here