Monday, January 13, 2014

Milady's Last Call


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


Anonymous said...

How not surprised I am at this news. Used to love going there. Little by little the invasion of the body snatchers will continue its takeover of all of NYC. See you on the other side of the Hudson, somewhere over the rainbow.

Anonymous said...

Please bear with me because I'm new to trying to figure a lot out about this whole new Manhattan situation, but......are the residents of all these "luxury residential conversion" places going to have anything to see when they leave the apartment and walk around the streets? Will there just be very few VERY expensive restaurants or stores to look at the windows or.....what's gonna happen ? -JT

It Was Her New York said...

use to go there in the 80s when I worked near by. the rare place I felt comfortable. EFF EFF EFF EFF ALL THIS EFFING S#*$&T. (attempting to keep new years resolution of reducing cursing but this fucking blows.)

S.S. said...

A few years back, David Letterman asked bad boy Irish actor Colin Farrell what his favorite NYC bar was and he replied, "Milady's"

Michael Simmons said...

I'm returning to my hometown of NYC next week and as usual am staying with a friend on Prince Street. I had planned -- as always -- to hold court at Milady's and now I can't.

To paraphrase Bob, If my thoughts about greedheads could be seen, they'd put my head in a guillotine.

Goggla said...

I walked by this morning and there were sad customers on the street who hadn't heard the news in time to make last call.

This is heart-breaking in so many ways. It doesn't matter if a business is successful,pays the bills on time, is well-loved by neighbors - it still gets luxury steamroll treatment. Sickening.

Anonymous said...

I used to live at 68 Thompson - locals bars were Milady's, Berry's & Broome St. I left NYC for WV in '89, but it's still sad to hear about Milady's closing... I met my husband there... my now-30 yr old son played PacMan while standing on a chair... So, just saying "bye" to the 80's crowd & Frankie!

ray6342 said...

It was so sad waking up this afternoon to see the shots that I taken last night,and saying to myself"where will all the regulars go now ? The older folks that called Miladys home ,and the wonderful people that worked there.i'am tearing up just typing this

ray6342 said...

My girlfriend started there sixteen years ago,and last night it was all over.It was so sad knowing that last night would be the end. The great people that worked ,and went there as customers will be gone .Sad !

ray6342 said...

It was a funeral to say it all.To all of the beautiful people that worked there ,and to all of the great customers that went there,a hail and hearty farewell.The dream is over.

John K said...

Dear Anonymous at 10:59 AM,

Many of the "residents of all these 'luxury residential conversion' places" don't "walk around the streets." Some are parking their money in real estate as a high-end investment; some do get out and about but are ferried around everywhere; some are the very rich children of very rich people, and shop (or have personal shoppers who shop for them) at high-end stores, eat at high-end restaurants, club at the high-end private clubs, and have all other necessities addressed by assistants, concierge services, and online businesses like Fresh Direct.

The rest of us get glimpses of this lifestyle in a few reality shows, New York Times, WSJ, New Yorker, Observer, etc. articles and columns, but for the most part these new elites live in a closed off world. What was once very true of New York, that the rich lived side by side (with invisible walls, of course, of privilege, status, and sometimes, well, police protection) is changing, because under Bloomberg, the goal has been to clear the poor, working and middle classes OUT. Get them out of Manhattan, parts of Brooklyn, and wherever else real estate speculators and billionaires see potential.

So the absence of anything that 99% may be interested in or able to afford is an issue for the 99% of us. For the 1%, they could care less. Hollywood and the TV programmers have been working hard for years to brainwash us to accept this state of affairs; rather than presenting portraits of the cities around us, we have had a steady bombardment of stories and narratives and reality shows about the rich (or wannabes), their lives and concerns, their hyper consumption, you name it. Any and everything else is just not considered worthy of attention or discussion, especially where economics intersects with the larger political and social economy, except in rare cases in which the lives of the 99% are presented as a negative spectacle (or sentimentalized).

To return to Jeremiah's post and this blog in general, to the Masters of the Universe, these global elites who continue to game the system and grow richer and richer, what's the loss of another neighborhood bar or mom-and-pop candy store or tailor shop or anything, really, that would allow a majority of people in its doors to enjoy?

Anonymous said...

Thank you for your answer, John K. : If that's the case, it sounds like a horrid existence to me. Not that I wouldn't want to be as rich as possible (who wouldn't?) but to separate myself from the rest of the world like that....? Sounds like it'd get boring. (At least the wealthy of old enjoyed "slumming", visiting hotdog stands in their top hats and evening wear). But, anyway, are there eough people who are THAT rich to fill up Manhattan now ? Like....a million and a half billionaires? The kids of billionaires never want to go to a skateboard park with all kinds of kids ? And if they're creating a life separate from the non-wealthy world, why didn't they choose a dull city to infest rather than one with stuff they had to destroy like NYC? And was this definitely Bloomberg's fault? Or are there other culprits ? Just a brief answer, please, because I'm sure Mr. Jeremiah has covered this already. -JT

tammy Chalala said...

I put myself through grad school waitressing at Miladys. When Frankie took over and started serving food I was one of the first "waitresses". I earned a Masters Degree from Columbia working Friday, Sat and Sunday at Miladys. First Joes Dairy. Next Miladys and Slane. Trump is buying up Sullivan st accordint to rumors. Get your big rubber boots on cus the shit show is about to get epic

Anonymous said...

I just read a comment on another blog from someone who said "People who complain about the way NYC is now are mostly just upset that they can't afford to live in such a wonderful city". That sums up the brainwashing. Can't afford to live in such a wonderful city. Yeah, ok.

John K said...

Dear Anonymous,

In brief: the changes to the city began well before Bloomberg, with an economic shift towards the rich under Ronald Reagan, and Rudy Giuliani's (sometimes positive) material and zoning changes during his mayorship.

It was not until George W. Bush's dramatic, unfunded 2001 and 2003 tax cuts, and related tax policy changes that have favored capital gains and corporate assets over middle-class wages and salaries, which have opened up an inequality gulf (i.e., one reason we have so many more billionaires and multimillionaires), however, and Bloomberg's radical zoning changes after he took office, that Manhattan began to experience the kinds of shifts we're witnessing.

It has not only been New York, but many other major capitals and large cities across the US and the globe. Similar things are occurring in London, in San Francisco, in Beijing, in Tokyo, in São Paulo, in Rio de Janeiro, etc. I hope that was brief enough.

Anonymous said...

I work in soho..this was a place for me to come in and have a drink or many after a stressed day the girls there can't ever be replaced they became my friends and my heart goes out to them all..we will always have miladys in our hearts..truly I will miss going there.

Barbara Krasnoff said...

For the last few years, we've been coming to Milady's once a month along with the attendees at a reading series that took place at a local gallery. The group could vary from about 10 people to over 30. Milady's reserved a table for us; if more came than expected, they helped us expand; if less, they didn't worry about it. People could have dinner, or just drinks, or a glass of water if they couldn't afford to buy -- it was fine by the staff.

We'll really miss it.

Anonymous said...

So, the last place a working class couple can get a drink and a bite to eat in Soho is Fanelli's. Milady's stood out because it was ordinary, the ordinary thing in Soho, outside of the mall stores, alas. I'll miss it.

gratefulquinn said...

I was out of the country for two years and came back for the winter to work at the Cinema I have worked for in the LES. One Friday I walked down Prince to play pool at the the first spot where "everyone knew my name" when I moved to the city in 2007. They told me that it was the last weekend. The waitress, bartender and I did a shot together and they where crying. They had over 20 years between them at that Bar. I remember the first week I lived in NYC I meet the owner at a show and he took me to the Bar, told the bartender to "take care" of me and they did. Everyone in that bar was a part of New York, not just some rich fuck. The pool game was one of the best in the city. I only wish I had spent more time there now that it is gone. For my first two years in NYC that was my bar. As my train stops changed when I moved from Washing Heights to Brooklyn/Queens I stopped walking in that direction as much and my bars changed. Some of them are now gone too like Max Fish. But I never thought this would happen to the dive on hurts to say the name.... For there was a place for the Everyman. A place where everyone talked as a group about the times and where the crack of the pool table and the laughter of the boys kept one going in this city that can eat you up.

Anonymous said...

I also am sorry to hear of Miladys closing. I met Frankie prior to his owning the bar. I remember when his dad was there all the time. The best to you Frankie and your family.....Kathy