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December 1, 2011

The last couple of days I’ve been reading disturbing news about the classic midtown bar, Bill’s Gay Nineties. First I read a report on Lost City via Jeremiah’s Vanishing New York that Bill’s may be sold to some jerkoff who used to be a chef at the horrible Waverly Inn. Now today I read that they’re declaring Chapter 11 bankruptcy to stay afloat and hopefully keep the sharks and yuppie owners at bay. This is a classic New York bar and I’d hate to see it get remodeled and Fedoradized. I thought we’d stop there tonight and see what’s going on.

It's colder out tonight, but at least it's not raining.

Sometimes I see things that freak me out and it's hard to walk away from them. This is one of those times. A weird plastic glove on a stained abandoned office chair on the sidewalk. Almost scarier than the Cardboard Box Man. Okay, time to move on.

And here we are at Bill's, let's go inside and see what's up.

There's classic wooden saloon style gates leading you into the bar.

And there's a familiar face behind the piano!

It's Bill's resident piano man, Elliot Paul. I met him last year on the bar crawl and was amazed that he remembered me. He really gets the crowd going and adds to the charm of Bill's.

The bar is packed tonight. I had forgotten they were lighting the Christmas tree at Rockefeller Center and Midtown is loaded with people. I'm having trouble getting a drink, but glad Bill's has a good crowd.

I'm not having much luck at this end of the bar either. I can't squeeze my way up to the bar to get a drink and the bartender is really busy.

I decide to take a few photos and come back next week when it's less crowded and see whtat the bartender and the people working here have to say about the fate of this bar. Here's some vintage boxing photos hanging over the bar.

There's green checkered covered dining tables opposite the bar.

Broadway ads from days gone by line the walls.

Elliot's got the whole place singing along and dancing as I make my way to leave.

On my way out I spy a real relic from the past. a telephone booth.

The phones been ripped out, but people probably sit in here and text now. Stop by Bill's and enjoy a slice of a real New York bar while you can. It was crowded tonight, but one night's crowd won't pay for what they owe in back rent. Goodnight and see you tomorrow after dark.

Bill's Gay Nineties
57 E. 54th St. (Near Madison Ave.)

Further reading: New York Magazine, Crain’s and 365 Bars.

(Don't mess with Bill) ‘Cause he's mine all mine,
(Don't mess with Bill) I say it one more time,
(Don't mess with Bill) Hey yeah yeah yeah.

(Surprise link...click on it...I dare you!)

Reader Comments (18)

It's on the list now ............ I have to go here just for the historical value of it ........ plus it looks like a damn fun place ......

"This is like deja vu all over again."

December 1, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterGENE

That weird glove on the office chair...looks like something Dwight Schrute on the TV show 'The Office' might have thought of just before they finally stuck his crazy ass in a straight waistcoat and took him away...

December 1, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterJaws the Cabbie

I love all those horse paintings and the boxing shots. And those swinging saloon doors are killer! I hope that Bill's finds a way to survive in these crazy times. It's not everywhere that a man can wear a gondolier shirt and get away with it.

December 1, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterBiff

@GENE: You need to check it out on your next trip while it's still here.

@Jaws: I've never watched "The Office," maybe I need to queue it up on Netflix.

@Biff: I love those doors too. I may go back next week when it's less crowded and get some better shots of the vintage photos in there, while they're still there.

December 1, 2011 | Registered CommenterMarty After Dark

Tell me when you're going to Bill's, Marty. Fave rave of G"A"F. It's always a stop on our New Year's Eve-ternoon bar crawl.

December 1, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterNed Sparks

@M.A.D. ; 'The Office' is the show I love to hate...before I drove a cab, I was a contract drafstman, and I have been a veteran of many 'The Office' type situations in my time. Michael Scott, in my opinion, is a dead-on depiction of the average boss. Dwight Schture is the picture-perfect depiction of the average assistant office manager. Every time I see that show, it triggers a rage response on my part...a kind of mental image of me grabbing them both by the scruff of their necks and defenstraiting them both...

December 1, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterJaws the Cabbie

This is one of those places I've never visited because I avoid midtown like the plague...must definitely visit now to show support. So sad to see genuinely interesting places like this "remade" into something fake and soulless.

December 1, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterGoggla

Haha that stain next to that glove yak! That's a real Quick N Brite challenge! Bill's should ask entrance fee! It's a real NYC bar museum ;)

December 1, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterRuben Dutch

The street proctologist examining chair was frightening. Then again, so is the suicide booth in Bill's. (No smoking to boot.)

December 1, 2011 | Unregistered Commentercsp

Now this place is what real New York is. I went there for lunch on Monday and sat at the bar. It was awesome because there were a bunch of regulars throwing around witty banter. But the best wsa the bartender, who was a sweet old gentlemen who was smart as whip and very funny. Most of all he welcomed me as if I was a regular. I really hope they don't get replaced by some ego-driven jerkoff.

December 1, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterJason

For sure this place looks like a time warp. A great old place and hope it stays busy as hell. Those boxing pictures reminds me of Jack Dempsey's Broadway bar back in the sixties/seventies. Hard to find bars with solid, thick wood like this. I've always enjoyed bars that have lots of people talking, glasses clinking and a piano player,,,makes drinking more fun, of course finding a seat at the bar helps.

December 1, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterAl

@Ned Sparks: Will do, we can discuss it tonight!

@Jaws: I'll have to check out the DVD's for sure! Thanks for the synopsis!

@Goggla: Be sure to go on a night that Elliot is playing, he really gets the crowd going.

@Ruben Dutch: Ha ha ha! I agree about that stain! And Bill's is a great museum to the New York of long ago.

@csp: "The street proctologist examining chair" Ha ha ha! Nice description!

@Jason: I agree, the bartenders and staff at Bill's are really friendly and welcoming, if the yuppie crew takes over kiss all that goodbye.

@Al: It is hard to find bars like this anymore, hopefully they'll win the battle.

December 1, 2011 | Registered CommenterMarty After Dark

The Hand is creepy.

December 2, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterMelanie

@Melanie: I agree, but it was hard for me to stop staring at it!

December 2, 2011 | Registered CommenterMarty After Dark

I'm a sucker for Horses-love all the pictures/prints they have. Speaking of claustrophobia type crowds, I need to go back to Manitobas when he's not hosting the roller derby.

December 2, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterBritta

@Britta: I'll get better pictures of Bill's next week. And a return to Manitoba's would be great!

December 2, 2011 | Registered CommenterMarty After Dark

Marty, my sincerest apologies and my heartfelt thanks for the following...
1) My sincerest apologies are for me not getting to you the night you were in, as you saw and as you noted I was slammed.
2) The heartfelt thanks is for you doing this post on our bar, Bill's is truly a jewel that shouldn't go away.

The bartender who left you (not) high and dry!

December 3, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterBill's Bartender

@Bill's Bartender: Thanks and this just proves what a class act Bill's Bar is and the people that work there are! I'll be back this Tuesday, hope to see you then!

December 3, 2011 | Registered CommenterMarty After Dark

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