Chumley’s Neighbors Speak Out in Favor of Reopening

Written by Mary Newman on . Posted in Business, News Our Town Downtown, Our Town Downtown.


Despite a lawsuit from a group of residents trying to prevent the bar re-opening, others living nearby support the historic bar

Despite the outcry from that group, however, there are many neighbors who support Chumley’s progress toward reopening. Eric Rasmussen has lived across the street from the bar since 2000 and told us that he was never bothered by street noise before it closed in 2007.

“There are some neighbors, I believe it’s by far the minority, who think that it shouldn’t be reopened because they don’t want to live next to a bar,” Rasmussen told us. “Most of them are people who have moved here since Chumley’s has closed.”

Located at 86 Bedford Street, the building is now surrounded by the designer boutiques and million-dollar real estate that has transformed the neighborhood from its former gritty, revolutionist energy. The underground bar had been operating for 85 years, serving the likes of Ernest Hemingway, E.E. Cummings, and countless members of the Lost Generation.

The former interior was designed in keeping with its original purpose as an underground speakeasy. The walls were filled with black and white photographs of the famous playwrights, poets, journalists, and activist that once shared drinks together beneath Bedford Street. The spot is still a stopping point for various literary tours.

Rasmussen pointed out that it was never the kind of bar that would appeal to disrespectful patrons. “The fact of the matter is, Chumley’s did not attract a noisy clientele; it’s people who are interested in going to a bar because great literary legends went there.”

Owner Jim Miller has worked tirelessly to reopen the pub since its closing 7 years ago, repairing its aging infrastructure, and has fought city agencies to gain the necessary permits and licenses to reopen. Miller told the New York Post, “We’re not going to be operating a club – this isn’t Varick Street.”

It didn’t take long for more neighbors to share their support for the bar.

“I wish they would have opened already,” said filmmaker Ken Kimmelman, who lives directly across the street. Kimmelman has lived in the area for 40 years, but told us he doesn’t understand what all the fuss is about. A girl walking by spontaneously shouted, “I want it to reopen, it was the best bar in the ‘hood!”

The interior of the now-closed Chumley’s, where many literary figures used to congregate for drinks and conversation.

The interior of the now-closed Chumley’s, where many literary figures used to congregate for drinks and conversation.

Another longtime resident praised Chumley’s but asked to remain anonymous. “I remember the place having been here, and it’s underground so I don’t buy the whole noise complaint [issue],” he said. “I think its one of those things that relates to how a neighborhood changes, and now this is a place for rich people and their babies.”

It seems the voices opposing the revival of Chumley’s are being heard much more than the majority of its neighbors who welcome it back with open arms. “It is a place that has so much history, and is such a part of the fabric of this neighborhood,” Rasmussen said. “If there is one bar in the West Village that should be allowed to do its business in peace, it’s Chumley’s.”

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