Monday, September 27, 2010

Rum House


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'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.


Susan May Tell said...

Love the description, especially this - "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."

Marty Wombacher said...

I stopped by last night as well and it was packed and you could tell most of the tourists in the place had no clue it was the last night. Fransisco who was a bartender here for 25 years said he was going to look for a part-time job somewhere. The Edison Hotel sucks big-time for not renewing the lease and throwing them out.

Tom said...

Thanks for posting. Before Karen's departure, this really was one of my favorite escapes from daily life in the city. It will be missed.

Grade "A" Fancy said...

Absolutely, the Rum House crew should all be given jobs at Sofia's/Club Caché, the basement ballroom in the 46th Street side of the Edison, where the incomparable Vince Giordano's Nighthawks play on Mondays and Tuesdays. The staff there are a total embarassment, water is spilled with comic regularity, and the bartender is painfully untalented.

Anonymous said...

The Rum House was a filthy dump in desperate need of a renovation. While I support your efforts to preserve aspects of NYC that are vanishing, you lose credibility when you support businesses that are negligent or health hazards. No legitimate hotel would tolerate such an establishment.
Hopefully a new operator will treat the space with respect...

Leforge said...

To Anonymous,

Fuck You! The place was not a dump, it was great. The Bartenders, Karen Brown and the clientele made it special. Better than the other hotel bars in Times Square which are one note pretentious cardboard cutouts. A new operator won't treat it with respect. A new operator will fancy it up and then hire shit staff and gouge the customers with overpriced drinks. No thanks! Farewell Rum House, you will never be replaced.

Anonymous said...

The closing of the Rum House is very sad. I really looked forward to visiting the place any time I was in NY. The bartenders were always friendly and Karen Brown was great. The place was a one of a kind. I met people from all over the country and all over world at the Rum House, and they always had a great time! The Rum House was the only redeeming quality of the Edison Hotel (which is an absolutely awful place - you get what you pay for ). Thank You Karen Brown, Ty, and Francisco for many wonderful fun times!!!!!!

Ray - RI