30 January 2011

McHale's: Five Years Gone


McHale's Bar—the closure of which Times Square watering hole led to the creation of this blog—has been gone for five years.

It was pushed out in January 2006 after 62 years in business by the rent hike of a greedy landlord. There was hue and cry from its clientele and the air rang with protests, but it was all for naught. Owner Jimmy McHale (above), son of his father (also named Jimmy), who founded the place, moved out quietly and let the condo tower known at Platinum NYC rise on the northeast corner of Eighth Avenue and 46th Street. The monolith stands there still, offering no hints as to the intersection's former resident. The stagehands who had made the bar their home moved grudgingly around the corner to the Playwrights Tavern.

At the time of the shutting, Jimmy McHale made some vague comments about the bar reopening some day. But nothing came of that. The chef moved on to Rendezvous, an eatery across Eighth Avenue, and for a time that place advertised McHale's burgers on their menu. But soon enough, that place closed as well. Jimmy said he was saving much of the interior and the classic neon sign. However, in 2007, one of the McHale's signs turned up in a Chelsea antique shop. And in 2010, Lost City discovered that the biggest of the McHale's neon signs had found a new home in Emmet O'Lunney's on W. 50th Street. The owner apparently made an offer on the sign in the days before McHale's closed, and Jimmy McHale took the deal. The sign was restored and installed. So, I'd say there is zero chance of a new McHale's rising from the ashes.

I wonder what became of up the joint's long wooden bar, which hailed from the 1939 World's Fair. I hope some bar somewhere is using it. If anyone has any news of it, or of Jimmy's whereabouts, please write it.

I still have the McHale's t-shirt Jimmy himself gave me on my final visit to the bar. I don it only occasionally. I don't want to wear it out, because I know there won't be any more coming to me. 

8 comments:

Screeny said...

McHale's was my neighborhood bar up to the end. And I left Hell's Kitchen not long after it closed. What a warm, welcoming place it was. Thanks for keep the memory alive Brooks.

The idea of luxury living in this neighborhood still seems strange to me. Maybe it's because this was the only neighborhood I could afford in Manhattan when I first moved to the city. A fifth-floor walkup always suited me just fine. But Platinum NYC's website touts "15' plasma TV screens playing mood enhancing videos 24/7" and - yes! - a "moat of moving water". (It probably also has great views of the shivering crowds lining up for Shake Shack burgers a couple blocks away.) Sounds completely unlivable, like a dystopian movie set from Metropolis. I've always suspected that the building was actually intended to be unlivable - conceived as a holding property for foreign real-estate speculation. I still doubt many people actually live in that tower today.

But I have this fantasy that if McHale's were still around, I'd buy one of those silver-dipped model residents a beer and ask them all about the 8th Avenue Luxe lifestyle. What's it like to tower over the unwashed masses? But alas, McHale's is gone, and so am I, and there's no common ground.

Shawn Chittle said...

I work in Hell's Kitchen and a lot of people's introduction to this place was in the movie "Sleepers" where they execute Kevin Bacon. I get asked about where "that bar is" a lot.

"It's at 17 East 79th Street..." I tell 'em.

Dwight Casey said...

So much missed - as are the various theatres that were in the building above the bar.

Haven't seen Jimmy in the neighborhood since, but I wish him well.

123 neon signs said...

it's a sad story. I actually knew Jimmy and really miss him. Great guy.

Ruby K said...

Man do I miss this place. Classic spot. Spent five years of it being my after work spot, having worked three gigs in hell's kitchen. unbelievable food, great people the staff were good folks, and it was... man, getting misty just thinking about it. Hell, even my vegan friends loved the black bean burger there! Damn. No place like it ever again.

Anonymous said...

i own a bar, my last name is McHale, and i was wondering if there was anything mchale's related you would be interested in selling. Matthew McHale from Philadelphia, Pa - you can find me on facebook

Tom M. said...

Spent many an evening there back in the early 80's as a young fireman working on 48th Street. It was what a bar was supposed to be. I remember the mix of blue collar and Broadway, and always enjoyed the conversations there. Sorry to have seen it go....

Dorrie Gilbert said...

Lived in Hell's Kitchen for almost fifteen years before leaving for Philly. Took a walk up 8th Ave. today and was shocked to discover that it was almost unrecognizable to me! It feels like a soulless stretch with much of the low rise buildings gone or slated for demolition.