Is the ’21’ Club Really Closing?

It shouldn’t have happened, but it came as a shock that the jockeys had disappeared. There they stood outside the “21” club on West 52nd Street for decades, 35 of them, provoking their cast metal arms to take over the reins of some invisible mount, their silks brightly colored in brightly colored stables Were. Suddenly, they were gone.

And now, it also seems, “21” is the club itself.

On March 9, nearly a year later when the epidemic forced the city to ban indoor food, the “21” club moved to terminate 148 employees, the majority of a notice filed with the New York Department of Labor Organized according to “The 21 ‘Club has been an iconic part of the New York experience for nearly a century,” as part of a $ 2.6 billion 2018 deal for the private French luxury goods group, Almond Ltd. hospitality group, private spokesperson of LVMH The restaurant was acquired. , Said in an email statement.

The devastating impact of the epidemic on the hospitality and hospitality industries, the spokeswoman said, “did not require tough decisions to reopen the ’21’ in its current form,” but reinvigorated its “specific role in the city’s exciting future To install “

That “distinct” role remains to be seen. Yet it would almost certainly not include John Papalibarios.

For 29 years, Mr. Papalibarios, 69, and an immigrant from Sparta, Greece, waited tables at “21”, serving five US presidents, expected debaters as well as Broadway stars and Frank Sinatra, the Baseball Hall of Fame. Catcher Mike Piazza and the man who first acquired him for the Mets.

Regularly, Mr. Papalibiorios’ hands-down favorite was John F. Kennedy Jr., who kept a low profile, tipped well and often drove to the restaurant on his bike from his magazine George’s office. Until this week Mr. Papalibiorius had considered the “21” club as a second home, as well as a half-century, the last place of his career in a restaurant.

“It’s not just for me,” he said. “We have 30 or 40 years old people who are part of the history there.”

That history was at the center of a panic Unconcerned Press Accounts The end of last year greeted the restaurant’s closing, at a time when it was still unlikely how the epidemic would change New York’s retail landscape. And the abundant reasons for donating to this quintessential Midtown institution since 1926 with its iron-iron gates, its flickering gas lanterns, red-cap lawn jockeys with names as donations to this place over the years They were – Vanderbilt, Mellon, Phipps – that filled the gossip columns of the past and then eventually faded into unrecognized desuetude, just like high society.

The “21” club was, after all, a rare survivor of the prohibition, which was a raucous interrelation after the passage of the 18th Amendment in 1920 when New York welcomed a federal ban on the manufacture, importation, or sale of alcohol. An angry lobby in itself, the Anti Saloon League, was the “Liquor Center of America”.

Opened at its current location on January 1, 1930, at a time when the New York City Police Commissioner estimated that there were 32,000 speakers, the “21” club outnumbered almost all of its competitors. It survived nine decades after the Depression, 9/11, the Great Recession in Food and Changing Habits. It can now be defeated by an epidemic that has claimed hotel destinations such as La Caridad 78 on the Upper West Side, the Corlandria New Corner in Danker Heights, and the Monkey Bar in Midtown, which hinges on affectionate life support by the hotelier until March . Jeff Klein and Graydon Carter.

So relentless was the loss in 2020 that it was initially hard to record the slow decline of the “21”, a business district brownstone that remained an odd hold of the Roaring 20s; A watering hole of presidents (every one since Franklin Delano Roosevelt, with the exception of George W. Bush); A repository of Outlandish lore (camouflage doors, invisible bottle bangles, swirling straps, Hemingway being busy in a stairwell) that turned out to be quite right; An adult playpen where Willie Mayes ‘bat was hung from the ceiling of Bill Clinton’s air force bar, Jack Nicklas’ golf club and bar room with countless dusty souvenir toys; And like setting up food where the ironic “Mad Men” quote around your drink order was not needed to call Rob Roy.

For most general New Yorkers, of course, the “21” club experience was inaccessible. “It’s a restaurant called a club, which reflects a public space, yet is effectively a private one,” said Meredith Tenur, an urban historian and professor of architecture at the Pratt Institute.

Ms. Tenur said, “This is the central node in a network where historically deals and decisions take place,” and perhaps that is why Donald J. Trump frequented the restaurant and even chose it in Dinner 2016 for an election victory. “He loved to greet everyone,” said the waiter, with Mr. Trump’s table of choice, No. 11, with a wall in the path of the bar.

Yet people with the means to dine at the “21” club were largely inactive, the kind of place you imagine but rarely do – and with good reason.

The restaurant had a notoriously exclusive seating policy for one thing – can I show you the back of Siberia, Section 17, Townhouse? There was a tedious dress code requiring gentlemen to wear jackets that eventually relieved them, ridding them of ties. Two decades after the birth of the modern cuisine, there was pedestrian food already considered overpriced in 1950, with the “21” charging $ 2.75 for a burger, which the coffee shops of the time were a little over a period of time. Was more.

Paul Freedman, a Yale history professor and culinary historian whose book, “Ten Restaurant That Changed America,” was particularly omitted “He said,” It’s one of those restaurants where people mourn, because They haven’t been there for years. ” Club from the list. “Freechomes was like this,” Mr. Freedman said, referring to a 14th Street institution that closed in 1986 after a 104-year run. “It was terrible for years, but still permanent because of the experience of being there.”

For Voss, the venue provoked the atmospheres of a particular club: hushed atmosphere, melancholy decor, soothing sentimental bric-a-brac, the underlying sense of being included in a special sanctuary, almost certainly someone else. Was. Is being excluded.

“I loved the place,” 86-year-old Stanley D. A leading Kentucky made breeder and bloodstock agent, Petter said. “There was this atmosphere and feeling that this was something you did at a young age and it was always nice to be welcomed.”

Credibly the “21” club was where Cornelius Vanderbilt Whitney, better known as “Sunny”, and other members of the elite after the National Horse Show, the oldest continuously held horse show in the country and now K is an important fixture on the calendar. – New York Disappeared

If, as its owners suggest. The “21” club eventually returns, it will certainly be those people may not have recognized. And if the restaurant resurfaces, as some in the hospitality industry predicts, LVMH as a branding anchor for one of the high-end hotels has set about growth as it goes beyond luxury goods Wanting to expand its reach, it would have to follow a formula such as the owners of Carbone or Ralph Lauren at the Polo Bar have deployed with great success: quoting themselves back to New York.

Are they doing this with the Sangh, the Sangh workers will be open to ask questions. “It’s a sad, sad time,” said Bill Granfield, president of United! Local 100, a restaurant workers’ union. “If I’m a diner or a line cook or a banquet busboy, what have I been transferring since March of last year?”

The center of the club’s legacy, the “21”, is another group other than its patron, said New York State Assembly member Carmen De La Rosa, who took out a rally to preserve employment for long-term workers and was the first to receive federal stimulus payments. Left to survive in form. Union lobby to preserve their jobs. Ms. De La Rosa, who represents the 72nd district in Upper Manhattan, said that places like the ’21 ‘club do not exist in my community.

He said that the existence of such places is not only important for livelihood, but also for the economic and cultural vitality of the city. “I am an immigrant from the Dominican Republic, and when I go into these settings and see someone Colombian, Dominican or Mexican, who have similar experiences with me, I don’t want to be lost,” she said. “That’s the essence of what makes New York a beautiful place to live.”

Nor is 46-year-old Maria Vermendi, the restaurant’s first female banquet captain, whose job she would be forced to move out of town if she quit. Nor did Mr. Papalibirios, who said that after working at fine dining spots around the city, he landed at the “21” club, it was certain “the place I had been looking for all my life.” Nor did Katia Malarsky, a 34-year-old pastry chef who enthusiastically traded if she was surprised at the seven-year-old “21” in the low-wage life of a freelance kitchen worker for regular hours and health insurance . “The club has felt like a one-on-one career.

“There’s a reason I stayed,” Ms. Malarsky said, referring to the crowd she met each time, with the lawn jockey as the LVMH spokesperson for the “restoration” cartoned in December.

“There is gravity in the name,” Ms. Malarsky said. “When I told my grandfather that I would get a job at the ’21’ club, he was most proud.

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