UPDATE: August 27, 2014: Subway Inn wins another stay of eviction. Maybe they will find a stone big enough? More updates to follow!
The Subway Inn; dive bar, landmark, home of the $6 draft, is closing.
Maybe I’m too hasty. The last word isn’t out yet. But there are some David and Goliath fights where it’s impossible for David to find a stone big enough to bring Goliath down. And the fight between a New York City real estate developer and a tenant is one of those.
The Subway Inn brings people of all stripes together. Regulars mix with tourists who mix with 20-somethings looking for a bargain. Stepping across the threshold turns strangers into friends.
My friends gathered there. We showed up late night and early evening (though I never made it at 10:00 AM when the bar opens) and after a formal function or two. I remember my flouncy, blue velvet dress against a red upholstered booth, rhinestone earrings glittering in the bar light and waiters in white coats bringing bottled beer and stepping out-of-the-way when a good song got us up dancing.
And the story-telling was excellent. A regular, tucked into the bar was happy to make room for me and tell me about his days delivering beer. He once dropped a keg right through the floor of the Subway Inn. He meant to heave it on the bar but the keg skidded by the bar top, gained momentum and crashed through the bar floor to lodge its edge in the actual subway platform below. He said it took years for the city to make a repair so “6 Train” riders had to step over the dent as they got on and off the train.
The Subway Inn is a time capsule. It appears as if nothing has changed since the bar opened in 1937. Not a single speck of dust has been disturbed in 77 years and now a wrecking ball is going to take care of clean-up.
Change is inevitable and often hard. Even when we’ll be better off for it, change can throw us off. The thing is, there’s no part of me – not even a teensy part, which can see how this will make New York City a better, more vibrant or more interesting place to live. And what’s happening to the Subway Inn is happening to independent shops all over the city. Landlords can get higher rent from chain stores and earn more money if they raze the old and replace it with luxury living opportunities.
If big names like Bobby Flay can’t win the rent wars (Mesa Grill is closed) what chance do the little guys have? Pearl Paint, after 50 years, is gone. Bowlmor, the oldest alley in the city and where I celebrated my 30th birthday, is closed as are all the businesses in that building. Luxury condos are moving in.
Union Square Café, a Danny Meyer restaurant, is on its way out and Chat ‘N Chew, where my friends and I have done exactly as the name requests, is gone. (There are more, lots more. Don’t even get me started on the book stores and newsstands. If you’re interested, check out Jeremiah’s Vanishing New York, which chronicles the goings around town.)
The Subway Inn and independent places like it, make the fabric of New York City. They might not always contribute the finest thread to the tapestry but they’re the part of the pattern that makes you look twice. They’re the zing of interest, the beat of the street, the thing that makes you smile even if you don’t quite know why.
And they’re melting away as rent inflates and we march toward the sameness of big chain stores, banks, luxury buildings and super high-end restaurants with menus and prices that all look the same.
We are bleaching the tapestry of the city. We are turning New York beige.
I need a great drink and food to make myself feel better. Unfortunately, The Marrow (Bank St, NYC) didn’t sooth my nerves. Instead, my visit reinforced my worry that newer isn’t better.
A fair and balanced review requires several visits so let me admit straight off: My review will never be fair and balanced. My snarky tone could be the result of low blood sugar since the staff cleared and tossed my full plate before I could eat my fill and my request to wrap it fell on deaf ears. The Marrow might make the best pork chop in the entire world but I will never, ever know.
The margarita was “juicy” and out of balance. But it was a hot day so the citrus and ice was refreshing and Vitamin C is a good thing – keeps scurvy at bay.
Some advice if you decide to go: First, eat fast and don’t be afraid to slap any hand that makes a grab for your plate. And second, plan your outfit around the wallpaper. Yes, I said wallpaper. It’s so busy, it clashed with patron’s shirts. Between the fussy walls and beat up floors and booths, the vibe at The Marrow is confusing – something between eating at Versailles or in your Grandfather’s basement in Queens.
Not beige but still a bummer.