Things happen in bars. Goods things, bad things, important things and unimportant things. New York City has been an important American city for well over a century, and the bars of new York have seen their share of “things,” whether the bar has been a down and dirty booze hall or an upscale, swanky place.
Writer Jef Klein and photographer Cary Hazlegrove have profiled over 30 New York City bars in this handsome, library-quality book with beautifully reproduced black and white duotone photographs. Klein, who worked in the restaurant industry for 14 years as a bartender, waitress and union vice president, has a conversational writing style. She recounts the famous, infamous, well-known and little-known stories of New York and its bars. “New York City is home to the best bars in the world—the best classy bars, the best neighborhood bars, the best dive bars. New York City wrote the book on bars. I just got to help.” She loves bars and that love comes through in her writing.
The book opens with a profile of ‘21’ Club. “Even in a city filled with rags-to-riches stories, ‘21’ stands out as a riches-to-riches story.” Reading through the index is like reading a Who’s Who of American history, celebrities and the rich and famous. Pete’s Tavern, which boasts that it’s the oldest original bar in New York City (1864), is a place where “longtime bartender Buster Smith likes to say, ‘Sooner or later, everyone comes to Pete’s.’” Of Spring Lounge, Klein writes, “When owners Bryan Delaney and David Broderick took over the Spring Lounge, formerly the Shark Bar, regulars and locals looked on with suspicion….Those regulars adored their glorious dump and didn’t want it changed one bit.”
After reading this love poem of a book about bars, it’s hard to imagine anyone not wanting to become a New Yorker.