Thursday, January 6, 2011

A Look at the New Rum House

I was relieved when I heard that the owners of the TriBeCa bar Ward III were going to take over the lease at the Rum House. The Times Square dive had long been an area favorite of mine and I was fearful the place, with its singular, quirky architecture, would be gutted or turned into a Dunkin' Donuts.

I met with owner Michael Neff last night to inspect the space, which the Ward III boys (who include  Kenneth McCoy and Abdul Tabini) hope to open for business next week. They were approached by the Edison Hotel to take over the place; the owners of the Edison also own the Cosmopolitan Hotel, which is a Ward II neighbor.

Some of the good news has already been reported. The name Rum House will be retained, as will the general layout and woodwork, and the saloon's reputation as a piano bar. But I learned more cheering developments. The unique copper-topped bar is not being stripped away. Instead, its various bumps and bubbles are being welded and repaired. (See above). "People work hard to get that old look in a bar top," said Neff "and here were have it for real. Why would you rip that out?"

"We want people to come here and leave thinking they had a real New York experience," he added. "You go to a lot of hotel bars across the country and they're so anonymous, you could be anywhere. Particularly when people are saying that Times Square is losing a lot of its character, we wanted this bar to feel like it was in New York."

One thing he did rip up with the dirty green carpet that covered the floor. In its space has been laid an intricate white tile floor which brightens up the previously pitch-dark room. One of the distinctive, maritime-flavored, wooden wheel chandeliers has been kept and cleaned up. (Though the hope that the lanterns that hung around its edge were brass was dashed when polishing revealed them to be nickel-plated.) The other chandelier, which hung over the bar, has been taken down in the name of airiness and headroom. Its lanterns, however, now hang over the bar.

The tartan plaid the dotted the walls has been removed and replaced with antique mirrors—another fountain of added light.

Neff and his partners decided to make red leather a design motif when they discovered a series of red leather rectangles along the bar (above). There are now leather banquettes, and panels along the wall, including a few arched ones that were once the top halves of doors found in the Edison Hotel storerooms.

The space once hogged by the huge piano with now be filled with tables and seating. The new piano will an upright positioned snugly against the north wall. There will also be a small space reserved for a DJ.

Finally, the Rum House will now finally live up to its name. Neff said that the menu will feature a list of rum cocktails, among other attractions.

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