The sidewalk shed that's covering it must have gone up over the summer, but on my way back from taking my kids to school, I got to stroll by and take a closer look. Seemingly without any warning (or none that I'd heard, anyway), it seems that 119, the humble, blink-and-you'll-miss-it bar on East 15th street between Union Square and Irving Place, is no more.
Since time immemorial, If you were ever attending a show at Irving Plaza, 199 was THE dive to meet up in. Dark, dingy, dank, shady... it bore all the necessary trappings of a great bar. It felt like the place to go if you were organizing a clandestine event or trying to lay low. If Han Solo had ever lived in Lower Manhattan, 119 is where he and Chewie would have hung out.
Back in my regular gig-going days, I was something of a regular at 119. The beers were reasonably priced, the atmosphere was cool, the pool table was accommodating and it was just a stone's throw from Irving Plaza. It was so dark inside that you could barely see who was walking in or out of the place. That said, I distinctly remember sitting in one of the booths, glancing up and seeing Shane MacGowan of the Pogues stagger through. On another occasion after a Killing Joke show, I remember accosting one of the twins from the School of Seven Bells and talking her ear off. It was too dark and unassuming to be pretentious. It was great. And now, it's gone.
As I walked by, I noticed the shed door open, so I snapped the photo below. From what I can see, the 119 I knew is gone ... invariably to be replaced by some ersatz Tuscan eatery or exclusive wine bar.
Pour one out for 119.