I liked the food there and the bar was marvelous. Old New York brought to life. I paid a visit on their last Saturday night under the old regime.
As we walked up the street at around 4:30PM I was a bit concerned as to whether the place would actually be open. Sometimes owners don't bother to play out the string - they just lock the door, cash the check, and move on. While the neon sign over the door was unlighted the bar was indeed open although the place was pretty quiet. Aside from us there was only a group of three in the corner nursing their drinks.
When they left we were alone at the bar except for the bartender and the music. I had hoped for more. After all a place that had been open for more than 70 years ought to get a better send off. Then things picked up. A group of 4 came in and ordered drinks, then a large group of early diners arrived, and then a group of 10 who were clearly there to celebrate the place's history joined us at the bar. They read aloud from some of Joseph Mitchell's stories and talked about Joe Gould, whose mythical “Oral History of Our Times” played a major part in bringing Mitchell’s writing career to a close. Their relationship was documented in the film “Joe Gould’s Secret” and many of the scenes from the film were shot in tavern itself.
The bar continued to fill up and a steady stream of people stopped off to thank the owner, Taka Becovic, for preserving the place for as long as he had. He's making good use of the money he got from McNally and plans on opening a new place in the neighborhood. He's also keeping the staff with him. Behind the bar there was a book where people were entering their names so they could be notified when the new place opened. It all reminded me more than a little of a wake although the prospect of a new restaurant put a bit of an upbeat spin on things. The bartender confirmed what I'd read on Eater. McNally has committed to keeping the interior the same. We'll see.
When we left at 6:45 the bar was full, the music was playing, and the back room was filling up. They went out in style.