Charles Bukowski once said: “if something good happens you drink in order to celebrate; and if nothing happens you drink to make something happen.” I’m not sure if that’s the same ethos other hard-drinking scribes follow, but the plethora of literary drunks has long spawned all variety of well-deserved (and corny) nods to dead authors in bars. Although the recently-open Emerson in Clinton Hill is named after the street it’s on and not Ralph Waldo, this new bar got me thinking about watering holes with literary lineage. With that in mind we’ve done an informal PW poll to find out what bars our editors like to get their writer-ly drink on in (or once did, since some of these spots are now closed). Feel free to add to our list.
Rachel Deahl, news editor: I’ve always lived uptown in New York and, when I was on the Upper West Side, I used to occasionally enjoy The Dead Poet, a narrow dive with a pool table that only nominally lived up to its name. (Actually, most of the posters on the bar’s walls featured novelists and not poets, if we’re being technical.) Now, as a denizen of the Upper East Side, I can equivocally say there is little in my neighborhood, bar-wise, that will give you much of a literary feel. But one of my favorite neighborhood bars, which also only touches on our theme in name, is Lexington Bar and Books. It’s a cigar bar on 72nd and Lexington and, if you can stand the smoke, the place has the feel of the study in the mansion of the rich uncle you never had–lots of brass, dark mahogany, and brown liquors going on.
Sonia Jaffe Robbins, managing editor: The West End, up by Columbia, is famous as one of the hangouts of the beats–Kerouac, Ginsberg, etc. By the time I was going there it was resting on that reputation, though a new owner in the ‘70s starting a poetry reading one night a week, when asked how it was going, replied, “Man, these poets can drink.” And Thurston Clarke, who wrote a book about money laundering among others, hung out at the All State, originally Tweeds, on West 72nd Street. It’s now also closed–though replaced by something else, a restaurant maybe? The All State is also the bar where the protagonist of Looking for Mr. Goodbar hung out, though it might not have that name in the novel.
Louisa Ermelino, reviews director: The White Horse Tavern, where Dylan Thomas died.
Calvin Reid, senior news editor: Kettle of Fish, in the West Village, which was formerly The Lions Head. (One-time regulars at the bar, which opened in 1950, included folks like Kerouac and Bob Dylan.) Also, Max Fish on Ludlow street is all-bohemian and a longtime haunt for East Village writers, artists, and cartoonists.
Diane Roback, children’s book editor: The Half King, which is co-owned by Sebastian Junger. A great place to sit outside on a summer evening and watch the sun go down over the Hudson.
Marc Schultz, southern correspondent: We’ve got a bar in Decatur called Twain’s Billiards and Tap. It’s a rambling spot with walls papered in pages from Mark Twain books. Twain also serves as their mascot. The bar also has a monthly meeting of something called the New York Corned Beef Society of Atlanta, for which they attempt to recreate NY-style corned beef, and fail. There’s a newish place in Atlanta proper called Book House Pub, but I think it’s a reference to Twin Peaks (the Bookhouse Boys), and not to actual books. And, though I’ve never been, there’s a place called Vickery’s Bar & Grill that, supposedly, the ghost of Margaret Mitchell haunts. (It used to house the shop of one of her best friends, and she’s supposed to have died after a visit there–she was hit by a taxi in the street.)
Jonathan Segura, deputy reviews editor: Can’t forget the White Horse in the west village; it’s where Dylan Thomas drank himself to death.
John Sellers, children’s reviews editor: Sadly still closed as far as I know, but Chumley’s has some literary history (frequented by Hemingway, Fitzgerald, St. Vincent Millay, Faulkner, Ginsberg, Kerouac, and many many more). And Cummings wrote a poem about one of NYC’s oldest bars, McSorley’s.
Mike Harvkey, reviews editor: Bar & Books in the West Village. Kinda general, but still…