Tuesday, January 17, 2006


It is said that to love New York is to always be heartbroken, but lately I’ve been getting it broke into seventeen pieces. Hot on the heels of the Beatrice Inn and the Second Avenue Deli comes the closing of McHale’s, a 73-year-old bar at 8th Avenue and 46th street.

Originally opened as the Gaiety Café—the side windows still retain etched “Gaiety” logos—the McHale family bought the place in the early ‘50’s and added their name to the fabulous neon that wraps around the building’s corner. I stopped by earlier to pay my last respects and snap some pictures on what was rumored to be the bar’s last night (owner Jimmy McHale wouldn’t confirm or deny).

McHale’s was one of the few places left where you could sit down and order chops and a beer and feel like you were in a black and white movie (like for real, not like some faux-ty-second street theme park). It was also the rare cheap, good meal and/or drink in the Theater District.

And now it’s gone, soon to be torn down and replaced with 42 stories of luxury ugly.

It occurs to me that I have now been to the last night at Magoo’s, McGlade’s, and McHale’s. (There was also the last night at Grand Ticino a few years ago, but that’s a story unto itself. . . and it doesn’t start with an “M.”) None of these places would have closed when they did if rent and/or development pressures hadn’t forced the issue. Like I said up top, I know the city is always reinventing itself, but there is a perceptible change in the pace and type of reinvention. (I admit that Magoo’s and McGlade’s were quite a while ago, but my point still holds.)

It’s probably too much to ask of New York’s pro-big-deal-development mayor, but somebody with a little pull in this city really needs to call a time out so that everybody can think about what makes this place so popular that we need all this extra luxury housing stock.

I’d argue it is (was) places like McHale’s and the people who went there much more than it is any anonymous high-rise and the people who will blindly pay luxury prices to live at the corner of Eighth Avenue and 46th Street.

In other disappearing New York news, Untitled, a great postcard store that has been on Prince Street for 39 years, is closing at the end of business today. The owners blame e-mail, but I blame the lack of commercial rent control.


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