Some terrible news to kick off your holiday weekend: It looks like the great and venerable Arthur's Tavern is about to vanish.
A reader alerted me to a new real-estate listing, where the jazz club's building is for sale at $6,250,000.
This "Newly available mixed use building in the heart of the West Village," writes the broker, is located "off the high-end retail district of Bleecker Street." It will be "delivered 100% vacant" and includes a "ground floor commercial space."
Of course, that ground-floor space has been Arthur's Tavern since 1937. "Called the 'Home of the Bird,'" reads the website, "this historic West Village entertainment nightclub is the last continuously operating New York City jazz club once regular host to the legendary Charlie Parker and the great Roy Hargrove."
There is no cover charge at Arthur's Tavern and it's a wonderful place to just sit at the bar, listen to good music, and talk to interesting people. It's truly one of the few spots left in the Village that still feels like the Village--and still feels like New York.
I've worried about it for some time, ever since its neighbor Rose's Turn was turned into the digs of a luxury designer (known as "the darling of young Wall Streeters ... the go-to decorator for a great many of today's young titans of finance and technology"). Next to that, how could scrappy, divey Arthur's hold out?
In 1978, New York magazine's Paul Gardner described a night here with piano singer Mable Godwin:
"Her syncopating rhythm and honeyed voice make Arthur's Tavern the kind of storybook joint where characters from a John O'Hara novel, caught between despair and desire, might perch on a ragged bar stool all through the night... The liverish yellow lighting and glitzy mirrors behind Mable's piano make everyone look positively sleazy. And that's exactly how it should be."
Mable is gone, but not much else has changed. The bar stools are ragged, the light is good and sleazy, and the music plays on. The Grove Street Stompers are still here--every Monday night for more than 40 years.
In his book, Discovering Vintage New York, Mitch Broder writes about Arthur's history. He notes that it was owned for decades by the Maisano family, and then sold--along with its building--to Danny Bensusan. The Bensusan Restaurant Corporation runs several clubs, including the Blue Note and B.B. King's.
A phone call to the bar yielded no information or confirmation about the sale. From the listing, which also includes a shot of the bar's interior, it looks like this will be the end for the historic Village spot. The realtor calls it "an ideal property for an individual seeking a great rent roll, an ultra private live-work space, or a renovation project."
A second listing on the same property hails the club, and notes that it is currently on a "month to month lease rented at $10,000/month." The listing reads: "The possibilities are wide open to create a dream owner’s duplex
apartment in the heart of the Greenwich Village with your own private
patio and rooftop terrace, plus generate income from the prime
commercial space/retail on the ground floor!"
Of course, a community-minded multi-millionaire who loves jazz and New York history
could buy the building and choose to maintain Arthur's Tavern at the current rent, right?
With that unlikelihood in mind, here's another one to worry about: With Rose's Turn gone and Arthur's going, what hope could we possibly have for good old Marie's Crisis?