BY: CHRISTI SCOFIELD
24” X 18” Mixed Media on Board
Cocktails & Curiosities Series
On View at Arts & Crafts Beer Parlor NYC
Chumley’s at #86 Bedford Street has an amazing history from its days as a speakeasy to its extensive literary clientele. The walls were adorned with dust jackets of works from famous drinkers, including Steinbeck, Fitzgerald, O’Neill, Faulkner, Hemingway, Anais Nin, Kerouac, Salinger, Orson Welles, Edna St. Vincent Millay, James Thurber, Cummings and Ginsberg, just to name a few.
If you’ve worked at a restaurant and are familiar with the term “86 the…” when you run out of something, well, rumor has it the term originated at Chumley’s. Chumley’s had two entrances, one on Bedford with “86” on the door and one around the corner, on Pamela Court off of Barrow Street. During Prohibition, the police were in cahoots with the owner, Lee Chumley. The police would call the bartenders before a raid and the bartender would proclaim “86” which would tell the customers to get out of Chumley’s through the 86 Bedford door as the police would be coming in through the other entrance. Thus “out of” became “86.”
Besides the two entrances, Chumley’s has numerous other secret passages. There is an opening to an alleyway through a bookcase, a trap door in the floor, and a dumbwaiter that went up to the 2nd floor where Lee Chumley was rumored to house a bordello and a gambling parlor. If only Chumley’s walls could talk ... Let’s hope it reopens for another century of stories.
Learn more about Chumley’s in Greenwich Village Tour #1 of the Cocktails and Curiosities New York City Walking Tours App Series.