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Chumley's is a historic pub and former speakeasy at 86 Bedford Street in New York City. It was established in 1922 by the socialist activist Leland Stanford Chumley, who converted a former blacksmith's shop near the corner of Bedford and Barrow Streets into a Prohibition-era drinking establishment. The speakeasy became a favorite spot for influential writers, poets, playwrights, journalists, and activists, including members of the Lost Generation and the Beat Generation movements.
Some features remain from Chumley's Prohibition-era history. Notably, the Barrow Street entrance has no exterior sign, being located at the end of a nondescript courtyard ("The Garden Door"), while the Bedford Street entrance, which opens to the sidewalk, is also unmarked. Inside, Chumley's is still equipped with the trap doors and secret stairs that composed part of its elaborate subterfuge.
It is also rumored that the term "86" originated when an unruly guest was escorted out the Bedford St. door, which held the address "86 Bedford St." A different version referencing Chumley's is offered in the book The History and Stories of the Best Bars of New York: "When the cops would very kindly call ahead before a [prohibition-era] raid, they'd tell the bartender to '86' his customers, meaning they should scram out the 86 Bedford door, while the police would come to the Pamela Court entrance."
A plaque at the tavern, dated September 22, 2000, and placed by Friends of Libraries USA, stated that Chumley's has been placed on a Literary Landmarks Register and goes on to describe Chumley's as:
A celebrated haven frequented by poets, novelists and playwrights, who helped define twentieth century American literature. These writers include Willa Cather, E.E. Cummings, Theodore Dreiser, William Faulkner, Ring Lardner, Edna St. Vincent Millay, Eugene O'Neill, John Dos Passos, and John Steinbeck.
Posted on the walls of Chumley's were the covers of books supposedly worked on there. Because of its historical significance, Chumley's is a stopping-place for various literary tours.
Chumley's has been closed since the chimney in its dining room collapsed on April 5, 2007. Promises to reopen have been made repeatedly, but progress in its reconstruction has been sporadic, and as of July 2012, work remained unfinished.
Chumley's was mentioned in Mad Men (episode 7) as a place where the creative staff were going for after-work drinks.
A New York Times article on December 31, 2012 details the rebuilding process. The building that houses Chumley's is linked to four others, all damaged since the wall collapse in 2007. Several buildings are completed and available now as condominiums. The space that housed Chumley's needs to obtain a new permit before it can re-open as a bar.