Wednesday, February 1, 2017

Chumley's RIP

The powers-that-be have body-snatched Chumley's. Like they've done to so many of our classic joints. It happened to Minetta's, to Fedora and Rocco's, the Lion and the Waverly Inn. They tried doing it to John's of 12th Street, but were foiled.

Writing on the trend, the Times in 2010 noted that the Village "has become like a theme park of the past, as these restored standards offer a vision of a lost bohemian New York — albeit with a well-heeled clientele and prices to match."

"Authentrification" is one word for it. Wrote Alexandria Symonds in 2011 of upscale businesses that authentrify: "in their quest for authenticity, they’re seizing on elements that represent the area’s past and repurposing them as a design scheme."

photo: Alex Smith - Flaming Pablum

I don't have to go to Chumley's to know what's happened to it, but in case you need a first-hand account, here's Pete Wells in the Times this week:

"If you heard that Chumley’s is open again, you were misinformed. The dim, spare, beer-scented hideaway in the West Village is gone, torn down, not coming back. At its old address is a restaurant that has nothing in common with the original except a name, a door, an archway and framed photographs of, and jackets of books by, writers who used to drink there. Most of them wouldn’t be able to afford a cocktail there now, let alone dinner...

...Now, instead of atmosphere, Chumley’s has d├ęcor; the book jackets and photographs are elements in a haunted house attraction featuring the ghosts of Hemingway and Kerouac. The neighbors sleep better, but the neighborhood isn’t as interesting."

Here's when it used to be (minute mark 1:43). Pour one out.

before the collapse


Steven Stark said...

The first time I went to Chumley's I was a college student visiting NY. That night became a hazy memory, because I wasn't really sure where I was. I rediscovered Chumley's a few years later when I moved to the city and was relieved to see that it wasn't a dream, and that such a place actually existed.

Matt Hiller said...

Though to be fair, it does at least still have the same ownership as before this interior chimney collapse.

Laura Goggin Photography said...

A $25 burger?!?!

I stumbled into Chumley's by accident one night after a friend and I got lost in the Village. We'd had a few drinks, then suddenly smelled sausage. We followed the delicious scent to a door at the back of a courtyard. I put my ear to the door where I heard muffled voices. My friend and I debated whether or not we should open it as we didn't know if it was a private residence. I cracked it open, saw a giant dog lying on the floor, and the rest is history.

One of my favorite memories was walking by one night and looking in the window only to see the place entirely filled with cops and firefighters who were going absolutely wild. All I remember was a sea of uniforms and hats being thrown around the room.


Downtowner said...

My own parents went here when they were dating. I took my now wife here when we were dating, too. The old wood, the old tables, it felt like a retreat from everything. I remember one night we were there it wasn't crowded - it was spacious. It felt like there were no walls, only there were but they were covered in photos and book jackets. I can still see it.

Maybe in a hundred years it'll feel like that again.

The Seditionist said...


The interesting gets priced out of the entire city now. Tourists and plutocrats must be served, everyone else loses.

Scout said...

I wonder if this change would have happened had their chimney not collapsed, forcing their closure in 2007? Would they have survived unscathed?

Faneul H. Peabody said...

Also, to be fair, the original Chumley's DID burn to the ground. The tragedy sort of already happened. What's more, even if it hadn't burned down it still probably would have gone the way of Minetta Tavern and Fedora, so in a way I suppose it's better that this is essentially just Chumley's in name only as opposed to a gutted version of the original in the exact same space.

Walter said...

Read it and weep:

meesalikeu said...

what hurts is all the hype about its struggles to reopen over the years. its the same owners and it was obvious it was a huge, complicated, historic project in the touchy west village and that they didn't have the money, so you were always kinda pulling for them. and then we get this? the opposite of the blue collar place it was? i suspect they had to partner with some rich honchos to finally get it to the finish line. just a guess. i do wish it luck though and will probably visit sometime when the hype dies down.

Anonymous said...

Sounds fabulous! The new setup will keep the socialist riff raff out!