Change is Bad: 21’s New Bar

After 81 years, the famous New York establishment 21 Club is finally getting a few bar stools. Glenn Collins at The New York Times reports on some new developments at 21 which include a new bar in the lounge, complete with places to sit and drink.

“The bar was for drinking, not for resting,” said a customer of 36 years, Thomas Moran, the chief executive of Mutual of America.

In the era of the three-martini lunch, the standing elbow-benders were three-deep at the bar, nearly as much a part of the lore of “21” as its checked tablecloths and the ceiling dangling with dozens of toy airplanes, patrons’ sports memorabilia and other curios (they are dusted twice a month). “I’ve served many people who ate a whole meal standing up,” said Tara Wright, a bartender there for the last six years. The tradition was “that you’d made it when you could stand at the bar,” she said. “You’d arrived.”

“The traditionalists’ rejection of change has been diminished by the whole series of shocks at ‘21,’ ” said Alan Flusser, the men’s-wear designer in Manhattan, a customer since the 1960s. “So, the bar stools? The beer on tap? These are just little aftershocks, now.”

“Curmudgeons may regret all this,” Mr. Moran said of the bar, “because it’s the nature of ‘21′ – we all feel as if we own it, and its traditions.”

While you can now sit tie-less and have a cocktail or even a draft beer (gasp), don’t even think about trying to do it wearing jeans or sneakers.

21 Club co-founder Jack Kriendler standing at the bar in 1941 (via LIFE)
Top photo: Robert Caplin for The New York Times

Comments on “Change is Bad: 21’s New Bar

    Lucas Oman on August 31, 2011 10:55 AM:

    I’d like to point out that Mr. Kriendler appears to be about to enjoy some of Ballantine’s Finest, one of the best blended Scotches for the money and my everyday whisky.

    Ryan on August 31, 2011 5:11 PM:

    Don’t break your arm.

    chris on September 1, 2011 1:07 PM:

    Probably a move to accomodate all the OUT OF TOWNERS who have infested NY in the last 30-40 years

    Matt on September 1, 2011 2:03 PM:

    My intro to 21 club:

    Written on The Wind (1957) directed by Douglas Sirk. Starring Rock Hudson, Lauren Bacall, Dorothy Malone, and Kyle Brock. Dorothy Malone won Best Supporting Actress.

    Rock, Kyle, and Bacall get lunch at 21.

    Second mentioning:

    Rearwindow (1959?) directed by Alfred Hitchcock. Starring Grace Kelly and Jimmy Stewart.

    Grace Kelly gets 21 delivered to Jimmy Stewart’s apartment — white glove service and all.

    randall on September 1, 2011 2:16 PM:

    @ Chris

    What the hell are you talking about? New York’s always been full of out-of-towners. My grandparents came from Russia. A more accurate observation would be all of the douchebags that have infested New York in the past twenty years or so.

    Kevin on September 2, 2011 12:50 AM:

    I have a fond memory of my first visit to 21. There on a biz trip, in my early 30’s (about 1983), we arrived for a late lunch. First question, “do you have reservations?” Um no. “Just go wait in the bar, we will find you a table.” 15-20 mins later, they took us up to a nice booth. The waiter, sensing it was our first visit, made his suggestions, and we had a wonderful lunch. (on our expense accounts). Even though the prices don’t fit in to current biz trip Per Diems, I still stop in at least once when I’m in NYC. I would hope it hasn’t changed too much, I will see my next trip.

    chris on September 2, 2011 10:25 AM:

    Speak for yourself,but my people go back in this town back to when people spoke dutch around here

    randall on September 2, 2011 11:33 AM:


    You mean the original out-of-towners? I’d have been more impressed if you had said they spoke Algonquian.
    Even the Kriendler’s were from Austria.

    From the NYT obit for H. Peter Kriendler, 96, Operator of ’21’ Club :

    “Mr. Kriendler, one of eight children of Austrian immigrants, was born on the Lower East Side and grew up in a fifth-floor tenement apartment on Norfolk Street where Yiddish was spoken more than English.”

    Zac on September 2, 2011 12:34 PM:

    @ Chris

    Don’t do that. Please, no more douchebaggery infesting this blog.


    Craig on September 2, 2011 7:23 PM:

    Seems somewhat OK — adjust to the times… At least the bartenders are not Hooters grads…

    JSQ on September 2, 2011 7:29 PM:

    Battle in the Five Points, Amsterdam!
    What are your terms?

    George on September 3, 2011 8:07 AM:

    Randall’s right, Chris, if you’re going to claim native status you’ll have to do better than that! Perhaps when you’ve been here a bit longer you’ll begin to understand what it is to be a New Yorker…not slagging off most of the non-native people who’ve made the place what it is for the last several centuries would be a good place to start.

    jbourbonjones on September 3, 2011 8:57 AM:

    $600,000.00 in renovations? better upsell the good stuff!!

    St Mark on September 20, 2011 10:00 PM:

    It was a sad day when the 21 club stopped requiring neckties. That’s the beginning of the end. Let’s hope they can stop there, but usually the decline is inevitable. Next, no longer require jackets. Finally, “anything goes”.

    Rufino on September 23, 2011 2:03 AM:

    Too young to remember the “good old days” at 21. Just know the olden days from the movies. Remember seeing “Sweet Smell of Success” and trying to figure out which room they filmed in.

    And, Matt, will always remember the dialogue from “Rear Window:”
    Kelly: What would you think of starting off with dinner at 21?
    Stewart: You have perhaps an ambulance outside?
    Kelly: Better than that [opens door] 21.
    I’ve always wanted to do that…

Comments are closed.