This one is almost too easy, too clichéd and too predictable, but I can’t resist.
I wrote about Chumley’s a bunch of times quite a while back, first here and then here, here, here and here. Much like my oft-cited favorite Cedar Tavern, along with myriad other bars, dives, clubs, live music venues, restaurants, etc., the disappearance of Chumley’s served as a milestone-of-sorts in Manhattan’s steep slump towards its currently bland, character-free incarnation. I should point out, however, that unlike most of those other establishments, Chumley’s didn’t close because of high rents, greed, quality of life issues or changing trends, but rather because the place literally caved in on itself.
There were reports, over the years, of it being restored, but after a while, it became pretty evident that the Chumley’s everyone knew and loved was gone forever, regardless of how its restoration and resumption of business manifested itself. Everyone I knew who shared my love of the place (to say nothing of the generations of New Yorkers before me that darkened its doors, including my mom), seemed to make their peace with that.
Then came the inevitable: A story in the Sunday Times about the return of Chumley’s, re-imagined as a more bespoke experience or, in the words of its new operator, Alesandro Borgognone, “Chumley’s on steroids.”
The Times profile handily points this out early in the piece, but it’s worth repeating that this lamentable assertion and its accompanying execution come courtesy of a man who’d never set foot in the original Chumley’s. Despite this, Borgognone goes on to reinforce his vision of Chumley’s as a pricier, more exclusive affair by disparaging the original bar –- which, again, he never visited -– as ultimately a downtrodden trough from which career alcoholics submerged in beer. “It wasn’t a place people went for dinner,” he claims. “We wanted a place you’d be comfortable coming to on a date.”
For a start, I’d like to wearily point out that Chumley’s handily served both of those needs. I partook of many a meal in its cozy, storied confines. More to the point, it was the quintessential date place. Obviously, taste is all relative, and Mr. Borgognone probably thinks the perfect date involves a snow-shovel -full of dollar bills for it to matter, but trust me on this one – it was a fabulous destination for that purpose. And if your date didn’t appreciate that destination, I might suggest that he/she probably wasn’t the best catch, but hey… that’s me.
Anyway, Mr. Borgogone (and if you can look at his picture on the Times story without wanting to flip him a strenuously emphatic bird, you're made of stronger stuff than I) aims to re-open his “reboot” of Chumley’s in September.
I sincerely doubt I’ll ever visit its interior again.