The trusty Villager prints a long piece on the fate of the grand old Minetta Tavern, now part of the McNally empire. There's much info to be culled from the piece. Most importantly, McNally is going to retain the name. Read on:
Hoping that Joe Gould’s haunt won’t become history
By Gabriel Zucker
Rising rents felled another fabled Village landmark in May, when the Minetta Tavern was bought by Keith McNally, the prolific restaurateur of Pastis, Balthazar and Morandi fame. Minetta Tavern, at the corner of MacDougal St. and Minetta Lane, will become McNally’s fourth restaurant when it reopens in November.
Neither the building’s landlord nor Taka Becovic, the restaurant’s former owner of 13 years, responded to The Villager’s phone calls. But rumors circulated that the rent had risen above $50,000 for the small, 71-year-old restaurant. Regulars said that they had not seen any considerable drop in business prior to the place’s closing, and speculated that, if not for the steep rent increase, Becovic would have stayed in business.
At the Minetta Tavern’s well-attended “last supper,” the bartender announced that Becovic was planning to open a new restaurant with the same staff, and had customers sign an e-mail list to stay informed.
McNally first began thinking about buying the Minetta Tavern last December. Word of his purchase spread when he applied for a liquor license transfer in March. In a move that pleased some preservationists, McNally announced at the start that he intends to preserve as much as he can of the historic eatery.
“I didn’t buy the Minetta Tavern in order to change it,” McNally wrote in an e-mail, though he noted that he would have to renovate the kitchen. “I bought it because it was — and still is — a very beautiful place.”
Minetta Tavern is renowned for its distinctive interior. Murals of Village sights and scenes cover the walls, and the wooden bar is original from 1937. McNally bought not only the restaurant but everything inside of it, down to the paper cutouts that line the bar.
“All the murals will be preserved, as will the bar and almost everything else,” McNally wrote.
In the same vein, when asked whether the restaurant had a name yet, McNally said, “Yes, it has a really good name — The Minetta Tavern.”
Construction seems to have commenced on the restaurant’s interior in recent weeks. But McNally says he is not ridding the restaurant of its lore, but rather reinstating it.
“There are…parts of the Tavern that have been ‘modernized’ over the past 25 years in a manner which I found sufficiently disturbing to make me decide to replace them with something much closer to their original state,” he explained.