Chumley's is a historic pub and former speakeasy at 86 Bedford Street in New York City. According to writer John D. Lukacs in a 2003 piece for the now-defunct USAirways in-flight Magazine Attache, it was established in 1922 by the "erstwhile anarchist, labor organizer, and soldier of fortune turned entrepreneur" Leland Stanford Chumley, who converted a former blacksmith's shop near the corner of Bedford and Barrow Streets into the Prohibition-era drinking establishment. The speakeasy became a favorite spot for influential writers, poets, playwrights, journalists, and activists, including members of the Lost Generation and the Beat Generation movements. Some New York (magazine) photos are posted on their site here: 86 that_Chumley's Photos
Some features remain from Chumley's Prohibition history. Notably, the Barrow Street entrance has no exterior sign, being located at the end of a nondescript courtyard ("The Garden Door"), while the Bedford Street entrance, which opens to the sidewalk, is also unmarked. Inside, Chumley's is still equipped with the trap doors and secret stairs that composed part of its elaborate subterfuge.
It is also rumored that the term "86" originated when an unruly guest was escorted out the Bedford St. door, which held the address "86 Bedford St." A different version is offered in "The History and Stories of the Best Bars of New York": "When the cops would very kindly call ahead before a [prohibition-era] raid, they'd tell the bartender to '86' his customers, meaning they should scram out the 86 Bedford door, while the police would come to the Pamela Court entrance."
A plaque at the tavern, dated September 22, 2000, and placed by Friends of Libraries USA, stated that Chumley's has been placed on a Literary Landmarks Register and goes on to describe Chumley's as:
A celebrated haven frequented by poets, novelists and playwrights, who helped define twentieth century American literature. These writers include Willa Cather, E.E. Cummings, Theodore Dreiser, William Faulkner, Ring Lardner, Edna St. Vincent Millay, Eugene O'Neill, John Dos Passos, and John Steinbeck.
Posted on the walls of Chumley's were the covers of books supposedly worked on there. Because of its historical significance, Chumley's is a stopping-place for various literary tours.
Chumley's has been closed since the chimney in its dining room collapsed on April 5, 2007. Promises to reopen have been made repeatedly, but progress in its reconstruction has been sporadic, and as of July 2012, work remained unfinished.
Chumley's was mentioned in Mad Men (episode 7) as a place where the creative staff were going for after-work drinks.
- Jef Klein (2006). "The History and Stories of the Best Bars of New York".
- InspirationLine.com (2004). "Where did the term 'You've been 86'ed" come from?'".
- "The Greenwich Village Literary Pub Crawl". Retrieved June 11, 2007.[dead link]
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