Greenwich Village Etymology: Chumley’s and the 86 [HISTORY]

Posted on: February 27th, 2014 at 11:47 am by

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The Grapevine; Photo: New York Times

The historic Chumley’s is back in the news this week, as West Village NIMBYs are trying their best to bar the bar from reopening at 86 Bedford Street. It had closed suddenly back in 2007 when the facade collapsed. Since then, owner Jim Miller jumped through the hoops and red tape to properly reopen.

This turn of events reminds us of two oft-employed phrases in the parlance of our time. Yes, we collectively owe Chumley’s and its long-gone northern neighbor, Grapevine (closed in 1915), a healthy helping of linguistic gratitude for the following…

NIMBY’s want Chumley’s “86’d” from the block.

Or, Marvin Gaye “heard it through the grapevine.”

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Chumley’s in 2012, Photo: New York Times

We turn to the text of Tony Fletcher’s excellent tome, All Hopped Up and Ready to Go:

Local bars, of which there was never any shortage, proved equally popular meeting places. The Grapevine, on Sixth Avenue and 11th Street, a popular social club of the nineteenth century where early bohemians stopped in to hear neighborhood news, gave us the expression “heard it through…”

And when, during prohibition, the Village’s nook-and-cranny cafes and clubs were transformed into speakeasies, the phrase to “be 86’d” from a bar (i.e., ejected) was born at the unmarked Chumley’s, which would toss revelers out back of its 86 Bedford Street exit when word came of a raid on its Barrow street entrance.

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