Citing the COVID-19 crisis and its economic impact across New York City, the historic 21 Club in Manhattan will temporarily shut its doors for the "foreseeable future," leaving scores of workers out of a job for now.
"In light of the ongoing global crisis and anticipated extended recovery period for the hospitality industry, the difficult decision was made that it will not be feasible to reopen the 21 Club in its current form for the foreseeable future," a spokesperson for the 21 Club said in a statement released Saturday.
The spokesperson added that it's "exploring potential opportunities that will allow 21 Club to remain a viable operation in the long term," though there's no timeframe on when a new business plan will be unveiled. The closure impacts 148 restaurant employees who will be laid off come March.
The news came the same day as Governor Andrew Cuomo announced the suspension of indoor dining in New York City as COVID-19 positivity rates continue to climb, dealing another blow to the city's already vulnerable restaurant industry. Currently, the seven-day positivity average for virus across the city stands at 6.72%, according to statistics released Saturday.
Opened in 1930, the 21 Club is a somewhat of a misnomer as it operates as a restaurant than a private club, as Gothamist previously reported. Located on West 52nd Street near Rockefeller Center, the restaurant is complete with a main sit-down dining space, a bar room, and 10 private rooms. The place is open to everyone, and has over the years loosened its formal dress code, according to marketing manager Avery Fletcher in an interview with Gothamist in 2012:
Can you talk about the change in dress code, was that something you were on board with?
"I was responsible for it. In 1996 we looked at our business and our clientele and we noticed that there was a bit of a fall-off, which had to do with corporate America allowing not only casual Fridays but basically casual Monday to Friday. All the associates in the firms and companies were now walking around in tan pants and blue shirts. It might not have been much of a change for corporate America but for us it meant everything, because now if people wanted to come to us for lunch they couldn't because we required jackets and ties. It really shut us out as being available to them so we decided we would finally take the plunge and we would take away the tie requirement at lunch and just made it jackets only. Some years only we took away the tie requirement at dinner.
Over the years, the 21 had been frequented by celebrities that include Jackie Onassis, Frank Sinatra, Ernest Hemingway, to U.S. presidents, including Donald Trump, who in 2016 held his post-election dinner there.
Intriguing many New Yorkers is the restaurant’s history as a notorious speakeasy during the Prohibition era, where owners and cousins Jack Kreindler and Charlie Burns had a “thick fake wall” built to hide the booze for their lucrative hustle.
The wines were an especially big draw for the 21 Club. Prices for drinks ranged, with a bottle of Macon “La Roche Vineuse” Dom. Chêne running $50 and a bottle of Romanée-Conti Domaine de la Romanée Conti costing $22,000, according to its wine menu.