Lit Nerd Wednesday!
Remember the faux-speakeasy craze of the early aughts? For a while I dug this rehash of the 1920s but then it became a hassle — if it wasn’t the Steve Rubell wannabe door guy giving you the too-cool-for-school routine it was the overemphasis of egg white laced beverages. Around the same time these places popped up, one of the last original ones closed — Chumley’s. Oh, how I miss this place; it just smelled of sodden wood and dead writer. Naturally, like any bar in the Village on weekend nights, the elbows and bro’s flowed like wine, but go there on an early weekday evening or Sunday and you could feel the literary history speak to you from the photos and well-worn dust jackets that line the walls.
Chumley’s, located at the corner of Bedford and Barrow Streets, was opened in 1922 by Leland Stanford Chumley who converted the space from a defunct blacksmith’s shop to one of the thousand speakeasies that dotted New York City in the first years of the “Noble Experiment”. Rumor has it that the term “86’d” originated here for the address of the unmarked entrance on Bedford street, used as a getaway when the cops came. It didn’t take long for the newly transplanted young bohemians to set up shop — the darlings of the Lost Generation like Eugene O’Neill, John Dos Passos and Edna St. Vincent Millay were frequent regulars along with F. Scott and Zelda Fitzgerald, who supposedly came here on their wedding night. In the 1940s and 50s William S. Burroughs, who lived just around the corner, would make it a ritual stop for a meal before a night out.
A chimney collapse forced Chumley’s to close in 2007 and after years of false announcements of reopening it’s triumphant return is scheduled for this September.
Who: The Lost Generation, Beat Generation and everyone since
Where: 86 Bedford Street