Tuesday, February 24, 2015

Winnie's Bar

VANISHING

More bad news for the life of New York's classic dive bars. After 28 years on Bayard Street in Chinatown, Winnie's is closing.

Reader Jack wrote in, "Two bartenders at Winnie’s Bar and Grill in Chinatown have told me that they are closing sometime in March as the landlord is renting the space to someone else (they have gone for 3 years without a lease)."

I called to confirm. The bartender I spoke with told me they'll be closing at the end of March. She was unable to give any details about the reason for the closure. *UPDATE: The owner writes on imgur, "Winnie's Bar will be closing due to the inability to attain a lease from the landlord."



Site of several Chinese gangster showdowns in the late 1980s and early 90s, Winnie's was a favorite spot of the notorious Ghost Shadows. It later became known as a place for karaoke and was voted Best Karaoke Bar in New York by the Village Voice. Here's how they described the scene:

"Dingy, dimly lit, and not too crowded, Winnie's in Chinatown is the antithesis of the slick, sanitized karaoke bars you're likely to encounter uptown. As you enter, you'll notice it's a bit segregated: On the left, old Chinese dudes play dice games at the bar; on the right, spacious red booths are packed with skinny-jeans-wearing hipsters and local office workers cheering on their friends at the mic."

The space itself has been a bar for a long time. Said the bartender of Winnie's 28 years, "It was a bar before that, and a bar before that, and a bar before that." That history shows in the well-worn interior, which is 100% classic dive.



Winnie's block of Bayard makes an appearance in the 1949 movie Adam's Rib. That awning for Carmine's Restaurant looks like it might be the same spot.

Jimmy Breslin wrote of a Carmine's on Bayard Street: "Carmine's is always the same... Carmine's is the bar on Bayard Street, behind the Criminal Court Building in Manhattan, where the cops and court attendants go... Carmine's smells as if it has river water in the basement. A couple of drinks and you don't notice the smell anymore."

Could be the place.

104 Bayard also turns up in a murky tax photo from the early 1980s, but it's too blurry to determine the bar's name.



In any case, what are the chances that Winnie's space will remain a dive bar once Winnie's is gone?

Before it turns into yet another bubble tea emporium, visit one last time to enjoy this classic spot -- knock back a pitcher of Winnie's infamous Hawaiian Punch (a powerful mixture of, among other things, rum, vodka, amaretto, creme de bananes, and grenadine), and belt out a bad rendition of "Don't Stop Believin" or "Eye of the Tiger" (two of the biggest crowd pleasers, according to general manager Teddy Mui).

Better yet, for this occasion, "Another One Bites the Dust."

12 comments:

Reuel said...

RIP clearly another case of gwei los/ba gweis taking over the neighborhood

Jaime Wolf said...

Pretty sure Theophilus London's video for "Humdrum Town" was shot there as well: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gypiIfMJYro

onemorefoldedsunset said...

Not into karaoke, but have idled away some time in here of an afternoon when it was half-empty & the other customers were a few older Chinese men watching TV or sitting quietly at the bar.
Sigh.

Anonymous said...

At the far left of the bar, underneath chinese new years signs you will find the original name in big carved wooden letters attached to the wall...

Anonymous said...

Probably too big to be a bubble tea emporium, but good observation. As a Flushing resident, the bubble tea shop seems to be the frozen yogurt shop (or Duane Reade) of Chinese neighborhoods, one opens up right next to another.

Anonymous said...

I dunno. I was there about a year ago to do karaoke and they were charging six bucks for a bottle of Heineken. The vibe was nothing special. Hard to feel much grief over this one.

Selborne said...

Used to be called "The Recess Bar and Restaurant".

https://books.google.com/books?id=wrMBAAAAMBAJ&lpg=PA21&ots=2NvyEgEsv7&dq=carmines%20bayard%20st%20speakeasy&pg=PA21#v=onepage&q=carmines%20bayard%20st%20speakeasy&f=true

Anonymous said...

So sad....love this place. Many nights singing and playing liars dice...

ABT said...

yea this bar's cool but way too expensive. Jack on the rocks is like strip club prices. Still, another one bites the dust :(

Kevin Dougherty said...

Boy Jeremiah is right on the button if that place could tell stories. During the 1980's it was frequented by an Asian gang the Ghost Shadows and was the scene of at on gang shooting by the BTK "Born To Kill" gang, I think it was the late eighties. There was another bar on East Bway that was the scene of multiple shootings of multiple occasions. (the old days)

As best I can remember about the bars behind court, I think that Winnies had been a bar named the "Recess". it was a cop bar. On the corner of Bayard and Baxter streets there was another bar named Murofy's (?SPELLING), and there was /is still Forlini's. Forlini's had a bar side and a restaurant side.

Steve Kennedy said...

Was in Thursday Feb 26 and spoke to Winne. She said there is some hope that they will not close. Negotiations continue with landlord.
Steve Kennedy

Nolan said...

I love Winnie's. I loved it more when it was cheaper, but it's the only thing like it in Restaurant Chinatown. The next closest thing is Upstairs Bar on Canal.

It'll probably become a 7-11 which will close down the beverage center on the other side of the parking lot.