The Real Deal: 86 Bedford Street – Chumley’s

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Chumley’s. The origin for all things “86″ in this business. I’ spent many a late evening here. Yes, it was real - replete with no signs, multiple points of egress, cops on the take, trap doors – covered with sawdust – on the floor, bookcase doors, shady customers, after-hours imbibing, blaa, blaa, blaa. The bar flourished, even in the Quality-of-Life deprived, big club raiding Mayor Giuliani days.

I spent many a quality evening in this place after long shifts toiling on MacDougal and Bleecker Streets. It was just the shit. There really is no other way to put it. Before every other storefront in Willamsburg, Brooklyn and Manhattan’s Lower East Side purported to be a hidden room, dimly-lit, no-sign-having speakeasy, there was Chumleys. It was indeed born of the Prohibition days, as many other freak bars were. But, this one survived intact.

It was the genius of Leeford Chumley. Unfortunately, it closed for good a few years ago. In my handful of walks along Bedford St. recently, it seems that – like many other historically spectacular properties with immeasurable social impact – it’s fallen prey to modern economics. Specifically, short-sighted land-owners and social-impact-deprived developers have conspired to rip apart Chumleys living history and convert it into yet another member of urban blight: condos.

I died a little bit inside, recently, when I finally accepted that Chumley’s would never reopen and return to what it once was.