01 December 2011

Bill's Gay Nineties Dilemma Grows Murkier


Alarmed by the rumors swirling around the classic Manhattan bar Bill's Gay Nineties, I paid a call on the former speakeasy to raise a glass, stare at the old boxing posters and theatrical bills and see what I could learn. The blue-blazered swells around me were swilling their Cutty and waters and dirty Martinis as if nothing were amiss. Very likely, they had not read the reports in the New York Post and Crain's that Bill's had declared bankruptcy and was being courted by the oily downtown scene-meister John DeLucie (The Lion, Waverly Inn, etc.)




I asked the bartender how much peril Bill's was facing exactly. He intimated in so many words that the owner of the old tavern—who as sitting there at the bar—wanted nothing to do with DeLucie, and that they were the victim of a spiteful landlord who was messing around with the fate of the bar. "We're not going anywhere," he said.


This confused me all the more. So, this is my guess. Bill's, wrestling with the recession, got behind in their rent. The rankled landlord, trying to scare Bill's into ponying up, started pimping the joint to carpetbaggers.


Meanwhile, just in case things go south, I took a few photos of the wonderful interior. The intricate weave of that swinging door above is pure, unbroken carved wood. Beautiful. The wooden phone booth is still there, but, alas, no longer has a phone in it, like so many other phone booths around town.

6 comments:

Mitch said...

Perhaps someone can clarify something for me. I work nearby, and have gone only a couple of times. Bill's is not a cheap place, and it generally seems pretty full. So how has it fallen behind in the rent?

JS Gillis said...

In the absolute wasteland that is Midtown East, Bill's is the only place with a soul. The owner Barbara is one of the nicest ladies you'll ever meet. The LAST thing this neighborhood needs is another slick operator who wants to revamp this place and "restore it to it's former glory". Newsflash Mr. DeLucie- Joe Dimaggio isn't coming back. You should know that by the lack of "glory" taking place across the street at the Monkey Bar. Bill's is the only affordable option in this expense account neighborhood. We don't need anymore truffled mac and cheese or braised short ribs. If we want it- which we don't, we'll get it across the street.

Anonymous said...

I used to like to read your blog until you write oily in describing someone so far from that. I don't condone in talking bad about people unless you know them personally. I have met Delucie and am a fan of all his places. He is far from being oily and is one of the nicest people in this business. Just thought you should know that as I am assuming you have never met him.

Brooks of Sheffield said...

"I don't condone in talking bad about people unless you know them personally." So much for 90% of journalism. I knew the old Waverly. I know the new one. I knew the old Lion's Head. I know the Lion. I don't care for the idea of what he would do to Bill's if he took over. Some people appreciate history; some bastardize it. I'm glad you like your friend. I like my bar.

yinzerella said...

I hope that it doesn't close. Looks like a great old establishment.

shoebox said...

Doesn't help to have an "affordable" option if its going to go bankrupt. Actually none of the perks are helpful if a biz can't survive. So whatever u liked about this place wasn't good enough. It needs to change. Say what u will about DeLucie, he packs it in. Or feel free to pay off Bill's rent urself