Legendary Greenwich Village speakeasy Chumley's has reportedly closed for good, becoming the latest NYC institution to shutter during the pandemic.
Untapped Cities reports that Chumley's, which temporarily closed down in March at the start of the pandemic, has now permanently closed its doors at 86 Bedford Street. To hammer this home, the items from inside the bar—"swanky leather booth benches, green bar stools, kitchen equipment, and literary memorabilia"—were available at an online-only auction hosted by A. J. Wilner Auctions.
The auction page stated that “everything must be sold regardless of price.” However, according to an email from A.J. Wilner, the auction was canceled as of 2:30 p.m. Monday. No explanation was given, though they noted, "If the auction is rescheduled for a future date we will make sure to reach out via email with the new information."
We've called and email Chumley's to confirm the closure, and will update when we learn more. Their website still features the same message it did when the pandemic first started: "As a result of New York City's ordered closure of restaurants, in an effort to quell the spread of COVID-19, Chumley's is closed and not currently taking reservations. Please check back here for news regarding reopening. We look forward to cooking for you soon! "
Chumley's first opened in the 1920s and quickly became a literary speakeasy. Edna St. Vincent Millay, a neighbor and occasional bartender at Chumley's, was one of the earliest regulars, and she soon attracted other Lost Generation writers like John Steinbeck and John Dos Passos. You can read more here about the history of the bar, which is full of tales of murders, raids and historical figures.
More recently, a collapsed wall forced Chumley's to close its doors in 2007; the bar then endured nearly a decade of bureaucratic roadblocks and housing code nightmares, as well as multiple lawsuits from noise-averse neighbors. It finally reopened in 2016 with a new menu and a swankier atmosphere, operated by Sushi Nakazawa owner Alessandro Borgognone.
Chumley's is just one of many beloved local NYC hot spots and mom-and-pop shops which have been forced to shutter permanently because of the impact of the pandemic. Last week, La Caridad 78, the Cuban-Chinese restaurant that has been on the Upper West Side for over 50 years, announced it was closing. Also last week, it was reported that Ellen's Stardust Diner in Midtown owes $600K in rent and will have to close in August if it's not paid.
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Sad to see La Caridad 78 go. I walked all the way from 116th my first week in NY to try this Cuban Chinese spot and the go to order always been the Ox tail combo with fried rice and tostones. My first encounter with Carrribean Chinese was in the DR when I was about 10 or 11 watching my Dad’s friends from Taiwan frying yellow rice serving it with beans and stew chicken. I realized there watching Taiwanese-Chinese people speak perfect Spanish and Dominicans fry rice that we were same same but different and that different was good. There wasnt an urge or need to make the Dominican food Chinese or vice versa. We could play mah jong or we could play dominoes but we didnt have to fuse the games. It is the genius of Caribbean identity and culture that tostones, fried rice, and rabo guisado could be left alone on a plate to their own devices without having to change a single thing about themselves to fit in... shouts to westsiderag for reporting the sad news and for the excerpt in the slides. RIP LA CARIDAD 78... you will be missed 🙏... last photo is me, emery, and cousin phil in DR
Along with Chumley's and La Caridad, other places that have been closed in recent months include the Gem Spa in the East Village, the Record Mart in Times Square, John Jovino Gun Shop in Little Italy, Coogan’s in Washington Heights, Lucky Strike in SoHo, Paris Cafe in South Street Seaport, Cranberry’s in Brooklyn Heights, and many more.
“I think you are going to see 30 to 40 percent of bars and restaurants close in the next few months,” Peter Walsh, one of the owners of Coogan’s, told Gothamist last month. “People have changed their habits, they are not going to be saying ‘I want to be around a crowd.’ And when they do go back to that, is it going to be a year, two years? They are going to have to redevelop what cities are, because small businesses are dying.”