Several weeks back, my brother-in-law Chris was in town. As such, the wives let us off our respective leashes, and Chris and I stepped out to grab a few beers. Chris being a big craft beer fan, the last time we did this, we hit some strategically specific spots like the Arts & Crafts Beer Parlor on West 8th Street, Milk & Hops on Broadway, Jimmy’s 43 on East 7th, and a couple of other likely watering holes. This time, with the aim of always bringing him somewhere new, I took Chris to the slightly hackneyed Peculier Pub on Bleecker Street just off LaGuardia Place. If the name doesn’t automatically ring a bell with you, the Peculier Pub is essentially kind of a Greenwich Village tourist trap bar with a gimmick. The gimmick is that their beer menu boasts “hundreds of different beer[s] from around the world.”
And now, a very quick and arguably needless anecdote about that.
Back in about 1991, my friend Sam and I found ourselves both courting (for lack of a better term) this one Australian girl called Madelyn. I honestly don’t remember how this awkward dating triangle started, but it really was as ridiculous as he would take her out on a Wednesday night, then I’d have a date with her on Thursday night, and then he’d take her out again on Friday, etc. Obviously, this was not an arrangement that we were going to be able to sustain for very long. In any case, one night on my shift, so to speak, I was rattling off names of places we might go that evening and suggested -– for no readily apparent reason –- the afore-cited Peculier Pub. Madelyn was unfamiliar with the establishment in question, but when I explained their gimmick, she actually got somewhat inordinately excited about it. So, that settled it: We were off to the Peculier Pub.
When we arrived at the steps that lead down into that basement-level global beerateria, we encountered a robustly inebriated patron on his way out, and the following exchange took place. It’s one that basically sums up the bar to a tee.
MADELYN (in excited Australian accent): Hullo, mate! And what type of beer did YOU get?
DRUNK PATRON: **BELCHES LOUDLY** BUD!
So, yeah, anyway, that’s the Peculier Pub. And just to close the loop on that anecdote, Sam ended up winning that particular competition. Surprise!
So, fast forward 25 years to 2016, and Chris and I are sitting in an otherwise deserted Peculier Pub, and I glance down the bar towards the entrance, thinking it would make a nice picture. So I took one…
Pleased with the above, I decided to share it on Instagram and likewise over on Facebook, putting it on the Greenwich Village Grapevine page, prefacing the post with a challenge to name the establishment pictured.
The responses were predictably swift, but the answers were puzzling. The first few cited the bar as “The Dug Out.” I countered that the Dug Out was actually across town on Third Avenue at 13th Street, but had closed, been razed and had an eyesore of condo built on top of it at least a decade ago. The elaboration, however, came that prior to being re-christened as the Peculier Pub (whose original roots lay a few blocks over on West 4th), that basement-level space on Bleecker Street was the original Dug Out, adjacent (and allegedly connected via some secret passage) to its fabled neighbor to its west, The Bitter End. As they say, I was verily schooled.
But, like I said, as far back as I can remember (or, at least, as far back as I was legally allowed to drink in such establishments), the Dug Out (or, simply, the Dugout) had been that suitably dank, dark space over on Third Avenue. I vividly remember many an evening in the late 80’s and throughout the 90’s knocking back beers within its walls. You can read some nice testaments of it here and here (via likely suspects as EV Grieve and Jeremiah Moss, bless’em).
I cannot put an exact date on when that iteration of the Dugout was closed (nor do I remember it going by any other name, although I’m sure it very well might’ve without me being cognizant of it). I do remember my final evening in the Dugout, though.
And now, a very quick and arguably needless anecdote about that. Some names and details have been slightly changed to protect the arguably depraved.
Pretty much around the same era as the Madelyn episode detailed above, I had (finally) moved out of my long-suffering mom’s apartment and struck out on my own. As I was prone to joke at the time, living at home might have come technically free of financial cost, but I was essentially paying emotional rent, so I vacated the comfy confines of my mother’s space in Yorkville and, flipping the staid environs of my native Upper East Side an emphatic bird as I did, decamped downtown. Right after doing so, I had an impromptu housewarming at my new address of East 12th street with of a trio of friends from a former job. But given that my newly acquired pad was bereft of anything resembling actual furniture, we decided to repair to the neighborhood bar circuit, a long-evening’s trawl that led us, finally, to the endearingly dark nether-reaches of Third Avenue’s Dugout.
Once ensconced in the rear of that establishment (and having already lost one member of our expedition to beerily besotted attrition), we somehow ended up in a deep conversation about our respective dabbling in all things taboo. My actor/musician friend I’ll call Juan for the purposes of this narrative spun a furtive, slurry yarn about an arguable transgression involving hallucinogens and a dash of breaking and entering. In turn, I dusted off a comparatively tame little story that centered around an evening of drinking absinthe and discussing the merits of Joy Division with a blue-haired stripper. It was then time for my former colleague I’ll call Gertrude to disclose her truths. Gertrude’s narrative, one involving a blithely casual regard for bestiality, described a series of disarmingly detailed indiscretions with a particularly amorous lap dog that resided in a group house she stayed in one evidently very hot, sweaty summer. Had this been a “taboo-off,” Gertrude would have handily won. Unable to top that tale, I believe we picked our jaws up off the Dugout’s floor, finished our beers and called it a night. I don’t believe I was ever in that room again.
But, y’know, the Dugout was kinda that sort of place. I don’t know what transpired in the joint prior to its becoming a somewhat seedy bar, but maybe there was something in the stale air down there that brought out one’s inner weirdo. Perhaps, then, that it’s no coincidence that, while seeking out evidence of this incarnation of the Dugout, I stumbled upon this image….
You can certainly match up the images of the Dugout with this depiction of a bootleg recording by the late GG Allin (yep, him again). I’ve never actually laid eyes or ears on this particular item, but it’s evidently a live recording of GG (no credits as to which estimable ensemble he was playing with at the time, although if it was 1988, it very well might have been the band, Bulge) playing at the frequently cited Lismar Lounge. In any case, after some doubtlessly feral renditions of such chestnuts as “Drink, Fight & Fuck,” “Expose Yourself to Kids” and evidently a trudge through hallowed songwriter Chip Taylor’s canonic “Wild Thing,” there’s an audio track (I’m guessing it’s not a song) called “Walking to the Dugout Tavern,” which –- if you’ve ever seen the fabled video of GG’s last day alive -– was probably a suitably tumultuous and inevitably profane event.
When I track down a copy, I’ll let ya know. I searched for it earlier this week, but all the places that were likely to have had it among their stock are long gone now ... but that, sadly, goes without saying.
Incidentally, if you're still blissfully unaware of who GG Allin was, here's a handy little interview he did with his brother Merle on George Tabb's excellent DESTROY TV back in the mid-90's. Don't watch it with any impressionable young viewers in the room. You've been warned.
These days, the Dugout Tavern on Third Avenue is long gone, its footprint squashed by that shitty glass condo. GG Allin just recently crossed the grim Rubicon of the 23rd anniversary of his death. Sam, Juan and Gertrude are all still alive and well. No idea whatever became of Madelyn.
...but you can still get beers from all nations at the Peculier Pub.