We're Even Against Chumley's!

I've written a few times about the remarkable phenomenon that Greenwich Villagers are against everything.  For example, see here.   At least, we're officially against everything new, and everything that seems to represent change, however slight.  In the most recent twist, it seems that we're even against Chumley's. I

If you haven't heard of it, Chumley's was/is probably the most famous bar in Greenwich Village.  It opened in the 1920s, during prohibition, as a speakeasy.  Thus, no signs, and a secret back entrance.  After prohibition ended, the owners decided to keep the speakeasy atmosphere going.  You could feel that you were really "in the know" if you knew about Chumley's.

Here's an exterior picture of the old, pre-2007 Chumley's. 

86 Bedford Street, home of Chumley's, pre-2007

86 Bedford Street, home of Chumley's, pre-2007

The building was an early style for the neighborhood, dating from about 1820 -30.  No way would you have guessed there was a famous bar in there.  That door was not the entrance.  To enter, you had to go around the corner onto Barrow Street, past the building you can see at the right in the picture above, and there you would find this unmarked alley:

Alleyway on Barrow Street leading to Chumley's.  Click to enlarge.

Alleyway on Barrow Street leading to Chumley's.  Click to enlarge.

That alley led to a small courtyard, not really visible from the street, where was found a door that went into the back of the Chumley's building.  Again though, no sign: 

Courtyard entrance to Chumley'

The bar was famous for its association with literary figures -- Fitzgerald, Hemingway, Mailer.  Of course, it was a poorly kept secret.  In fact, undoubtedly it got a little touristy in its later days. 

But then tragedy struck.  In 2007 the building suffered a partial collapse, and the bar was forced to close.  They tore the building down completely, and they've been rebuilding it in a very slow process ever since.  Today, seven years later, it seems that it's about ready to reopen.  Here's the new building, looking very much like the old building:

New 86 Bedford Street

So what is the official Greenwich Village reaction to the upcoming reopening of Chumley's?  Why, of course, we're against it!  It seems that a coalition of about 50 neighbors has filed suit to have Chumley's liquor license revoked so that it cannot reopen.  Here's a report from Grub Street in February:

A group of approximately 50 neighbors filed a lawsuit in Manhattan State Supreme Court yesterday, asking the state to revoke the liquor license at the famous speakeasy and Greenwich Village institution, which has been closed since a partial wall collapse in 2007 threatened the integrity of the building. "Bar-Free Bedford" claims that shortly before its emergency closure, Chumley's was operating not as a highbrow bar with deep literary roots, as it's often claimed in guidebooks, but as "a major destination for tourists, undergraduates and bar-hopping bridge-and-tunnel partygoers."

Mind you, this is smack in the middle of the square mile with undoubtedly the most bars and restaurants of any square mile in the entire United States.  For example, exactly two doors down we have a building with the address 12 Grove Street.  You might recognize it as the building that was used for the exterior shots to represent the home of Rachel, Monica, Joey, Chandler, et al. on the TV series Friends.  Yes, there is a restaurant/bar in this building.

The restaurant may have been there for decades, but pity these poor people if they should close it and then try to reopen.  Hey, this is Greenwich Village!

The "Friends" Building, 12 Grove Street, corner Bedford, Greenwich Village

UPDATE March 31, 2014:  And how about Google?  The new word in the neighborhood is that Google has a plan for something new, a retail store, taking a cue from the huge success of Apple with this idea.  I'll bet you would say that any neighborhood in the country would be ecstatic to be chosen by Google for the site of its first retail store.  But then you don't understand us.

Our local newspaper The Villager first reported in its March 20 edition that Google was looking to lease space at 131 Greene Street, just half a block south of the official boundary of Greenwich Village in a neighborhood called Soho, and very close to one of the Apple stores at the corner of Prince and Greene Streets.  The Villager quotes a top retail broker, Faith Hope Consolo, to the effect that Greene Street is the hot street to be on these days:  "There are different streets that are in vogue, that have become hot, and it's just now that Greene St. has become the street in Soho."

It took just a week for the forces Against Everything to get their act together.  In the March 27 edition of The Villager we have Community Board 2 member Bo Riccobono quoted as follows:

It’s a very bad idea.  It will bring hordes of people to this quiet street with low-traffic, high-end stores. Google should be on Broadway, West Broadway or Lafayette St. on a corner near a subway.

View Larger Map">Here's a link to a picture of the street from Google maps streetview.  Yes, the street is lined with retail stores.  You can see the existing Apple store at the very left of the picture.