Bill’s Gay Nineties


I first heard about Bill’s Gay Nineties from the man-who-knows-all-things Todd Robbins, who spoke of it in the most glowing terms. An actual former speakeasy from the 1920s, the three story resort in the heart of midtown is now a sort of show biz museum in addition to being an eatery/ drinkery. Unfortunately, I read recently that Bill’s is closing its doorsthis month, and so I wasted no time in creating an excuse to visit and set up a lunch date there yesterday.

I expected it to be impossible to get in, given the legendary status of the place and its limited time on this earth. Not only was I easily able to make a reservation, but the place was quite dead at yesterday’s lunch hour. Something I don’t know? I couldn’t speak to the food. I had an upset stomach so ordered a Caesar’s salad, a dish which a chimp could make, so I don’t know how the actual cooked menu is.

The decor is what I went for, and it was indeed my cupa Darjeeling. The saloon on the ground floor (complete with swinging doors) is devoted to sport and there was an extensive gallery of long-forgotten boxers and race horses. In the entry and in the 2nd floor restaurant it’s more geared to the stage, and you can see countless posters, photos, sheet music and cartes de visit of the likes of Lillie Langtry, Joseph Jefferson, Fritzi Scheff, Blossom Seeley, etc etc.

Rumor has it they’ll be moving to a new home, but I don’t know if they’ll be taking their collections with them. It’s worth going over for a peek (and a meal) while you still can. Here is all the salient data.


One Response to “Bill’s Gay Nineties”

  1. Yes, if indeed they are closing it is a tragedy! I myself shared a marvelous dinner there with Peter Mintun, Eric Bernhoft and Ron Maggliozi (I think). Bill’s Gay Nineties is a showplace and having it move from beside the 21 Club would take away from its historic qualities. I hope they can keep their lease. Phooey!


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