I was sad to learn this morning that yet another seemingly untouchable Manhattan institution is falling prey to the wrecking ball. As reported today on WNYC, age-old Hell's Kitchen watering hole, McHale's, is being demolished to accomodate another luxury high rise (yeah....like NYC needs more of those).
To be fair, Hell's Kitchen was never really my beat, so to speak. Or at least it wasn't until my friend Rob moved into the area in the late `90's and handed me a dog-eared copy of T.J. English's awesome true-crime classic, The Westies to pour through, documenting the neighborhood's blood-splattered origins in Irish mob violence. Though we were normally more inclined to hit spots like The Bellevue Bar over on 9th Avenue and 40th street or -- after it had moved out of its original location -- Siberia, I bellied up to McHale's endearingly grubby bar on several occasions. I'm especially sad that it's leaving now that I'm working but a stone's throw from its doors. You can't invent bars like McHale's. Its character comes from its rich, somewhat seedy history. It looked like the type of bar you were likely to encounter a professional hit-man in, sitting quietly at booth, drowning his sorrows in yet another beer as he stared betwen the wooden blinds at the mean city streets just behind the glass. Despite its placement in the theatre district, it didn't immediately ooze the tourist-friendly aura of, say, McSorley's. It may lack the sneery mystique of CBGB's (its days also numbered) or the cinematic panache of Chumley's (though McHale's did make a fleeting cameo in one of those dreadful Ed Burns romantic comedies from the mid-90s), but McHale's boasted a warm vibe of old New York authenticity which is quickly going the way of all flesh. When McHale's goes, a part of that neighborhood will be irretrievably gone. And that's a damn shame.