Thursday, March 1, 2012

Bill's Gay 90s


We've been hearing speculation for months that the wonderful Bill's Gay 90s would be closing. Now it's official. Marty visited this week and talked to the bartender and the owner. They confirmed that the last day for Bill's will be March 24.

Writes Marty, "It seems that the landlord isn't going to renew the lease and someone else is going to take over. The landlord hasn't revealed who this someone else is, but all bets are on John DeLucie, even though it's been denied in the press. My question is why would the landlord deny Bill's lease when they pack them in nightly."

Bill's has been on 54th Street since 1924. Tallulah Bankhead drank here. Their website says: "this jewel in the crown of Roaring Twenties nightlife continues to defy the powers that be (progress now and development) while holding its sacred ground for a clientele, in some cases, four generations old." But, as we know, the powers that be cannot be defied forever. No matter how popular and beloved a bar might be.

It's heartbreaking to lose yet another century-old classic, another unpretentious place where you can sit and have a drink in quiet, eat a burger at the bar, talk to decent people, and feel like you are someplace--someplace real and solid.

And what will happen to all the wonderful antiques? What happens to the Ziegfeld girls and the mustachioed boxers, to the wooden telephone booth and the stained glass saloon doors? What will happen to the green-shirted jockey guarding the entrance?

Owner Barbara Bart told Marty that "there will be a new Bill's in the future, not far from this location." She owns all the memorabilia in the place and plans to take it with her to the new spot, so we won't see a Minetta Tavern maneuver done here, all those treasures locked up for the swells.

But can Bill's last in a new space? Time and again we've seen long-term survivors, pushed out by greedy landlords, reopen in a new location, only to vanish again (and for good) a year or two later. Once displaced, most businesses just don't make it. I hope Bill's has a happier ending.

And a pox on whatever carpetbagger is about to swoop in to raid the corpse of this New York institution.


Anonymous said...

I've had enough. Puke on a stick.
A real New Yorker

Marty Wombacher said...

The real sad and stupid thing here is the jackass landlord is pushing out Barbara and her crew and the place makes money and is packed nightly. I really hope Barbara can be the one owner who gets pushed out and can make a go of it in another place. Bill's is known to have ghosts that inhabit the joint, I hope they raise holy hell when the new intruders take over.

Dave - Everywhere said...

No surprise here. I've commented before about the trend everywhere, not just in NY, to drive out the old and authentic and replace it with the the new and faux-authentic. Bill's will move on from it's home of nearly 80 years and it will be replaced by a faux Irish/English pub (entrepreneurial types can't tell the difference, you know). And all the hipsters and under-30 types, who never in a million years would have gone to the real deal will flock in and say "cool".

Grade "A" Fancy said...

Why is the landlord pushing them out, does anyone know? Has he asked for more money?
The odd thing about Bill's, as much as I love it and I do, is that the second and third floors are unused every night. Years back there was cabaret or music, there's a nice little stage. Just doesn't make sense.

Anonymous said...

back in the 50s & early 60s my father was a waiter in many of the high-end restaurants: Luchow's on 14th Street & Top of the Sixes to name a couple. Bill's Gay 90s was one of his favorite haunts after a shift & where he took my mother during their courtship. i was last there in the mid-80s with my family. a group of us had been to a Show, i think. little did i know it was the beginning of the end of a lot of things...:(

Grand St. said...


Times had this piece today. Landlord "couldn't be reached for comment.":

Jeremiah Moss said...

thanks Grand St. fucking landlords--all that to vanish and for what?

Anonymous said...

Apparently, the owner is in bankruptcy... I don't know. I am truly sad about this. I have not been in for a few months and thus have some misplaced guilt... My wife and her friend claim to have actually seen a ghost there (I have not). I pray the spirits haunt the landlord for eternity!

Brian "Bugsy" Moran said...

Brian "Bugsy" Moran here. Piano man on Saturday nights at Bills for the last 5 years. Thanks all for the good times, I really honed my skills as as entertainer those many nights, you really made me work it. Fun, and gratifying. Building was bought two years ago by Irishmen Noel Tynan and Anthiny Kearns (Irish Tenor). Kearns was the background guy, good cop and Tynan the bad cop, apparently unyielding in his business dealings. Barbara is heartbroken, as you can imagine. Last night, a fine representative from Mayor Bloomberg's office arrived at a very packed Bills to present and read aloud a "PROCLAMATION from the mayor's office, declaring Saturday March 24 Bill's Gay 90s DAY. It was beautiful, touching and there was not a dry eye in the house.
Cheers all. See you in a few months. LEt's kick it!