23 January 2009

The End of Civilization as We Know It


Eater reports today that it received notice of a dining deal from the "21" Club, which included this line:

"...we have (somewhat) relaxed our dress code in the lounge and bar areas, as well as the dining rooms. Ties are still preferred and greatly appreciated, but they are no longer a must."

Uh. This news upsets me, much more than it really should. It's more of an involuntary, visceral response. I feel physically ill.

I love "21." It's historic and alive and unique and cozy and convivial. Every visit is a celebration of what makes New York different from all other cities. The food is good, the wine list fantastic, the grasp of tradition firm, and the decor a riotous delight for the eye and mind (Remingtons on the walls, toys and things hanging from the ceiling, plaques, pictures, framed cartoons poking decades of fun at the place). It's a restaurant, a club, a haven and a landmark.

But this decision I must deplore. "21" has always rather marched to its own tune, not keeping up with the times, but adhering to its individual, somewhat formal way of doing things. It does not go around whoring after trends and tourists. When you go to "21," you dine "21" style. That doesn't mean they'll treat you haughtily or shabbily; quite the contrary, you'll be treated like a king. But there are rules of decorum. The place is worthy of respect and a little effort on the part of its patrons.

"21" was the last restaurant in New York City to demand that gentlemen wear a jacket and tie. Think of that. Thousands of places to eat in this town and the hoi polloi's penchant for sloppiness has become so enveloping that only one eatery has the guts to tells its patron to look decent when they go out to eat. It's truly discouraging. There were many more restaurants that required ties only a decade ago, but one by one they dropped the rule because too many affronted losers felt importuned and inconvenienced. San Domenico, for instance, abandoned the dress code because fat old Met Opera conductor James Levine liked to wear polo shirts!

Some while back, "21" caved in on lunch; no tie needed. But it held firm on dinner. I talked to a manager a year ago and he expressed his wish to get ties back for the lunch hour. But instead the reverse has happened. Open collars all around! Men really are children these days. "I like to be comfortable." "I feel strangled by a tie." "I hate dressing up." Why don't you just unbutton your pants, take off your shoes and prop your stocking feet up on the checkered tablecloth while you're at it? Grow up.

Do not give in "21." Reverse your decision! Times are tough, but you will prevail.

7 comments:

Brooks said...

As the country goes, so goes New York......surrendering, with barely a struggle, to the lowest, laziest common denominator. Grace, grit, brilliance, eccentricity, authenticity -- attributes that for so long made NYC a place apart -- are going the way of the wooly mammoth.

Until he topples into the tar pits, this old mammoth will continue wearing jacket and tie on special occasions -- a small nod of respect to the old and vanishing city.

Brooks of Sheffield said...

Though I agree with the above comment, just want people to know that the comment is not from this Brooks, but some other Brooks. Confusing.

Kevin said...

I love 21. I don't wear a tie very often outside of work functions, but I'm more than happy to do so when the occasion calls for it.

Truly, the end of an era.

M.Lane said...

I cannot believe this. I love 21 also and this is lousy. Maybe the usual clientele are self-selecting tie wearers anyhow. I know I'll do my part...

ML
mlanesepic.blogspot.com

Hans Sachs said...

I understand your frustration, I really do. But times change. Styles evolve. People with money want different things than they did 50 years ago, and that doesn't mean the world is ending.

Oren said...

I totally agree with you Brooks of Sheffield. I'm one of these whiny slobs most of the time. I prefer an old pair of jeans, Timberland boots, and a dirty shirt. But on the few occassions I've been to 21, it's jacket and tie.

If 21 managment/owners read this at all, please reverse this decision or else every soccer mom jeans wearing tourist will be "lunching" at your establishment by the end of the year.

Anonymous said...

nyc is really losing all its class
how sad