Monday, July 14, 2008

The Term 86'ed

Many years ago, Chumley's Restaurant, at 86 Bedford Street in Greenwich Village, New York City, had a custom of throwing rowdy customers out the back door. Chumley's building dates to the 1830s and was originally a blacksmithery. According to legend, in the pre-Civil War era it was a stop where escaped slaves could find a haven (there was a black community on nearby Gay Street). During Prohibition, Chumley's was a speakeasy owned by Leland Stanford Chumley. It also served as the headquarters and printing office of the International Workers of the World (or the "Wobblies") in New York. When the Wobblies held their meetings in the front room of the restaurant and the cops were on the way, someone would shout "86," and they would all exit through the back door.

Chumley's is probably the only major bar or restaurant in New York City that has never had a sign or marking of any sort on its exterior to mark its presence. Yet most Greenwich Villagers know where it is, officially 86 Bedford Street just north of Barrow, and most nights, it's packed.

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