It’s easy to laugh, as James Wolcott does here, at the lost souls looking for a new home on the Upper East Side now that Elaine’s has closed. But even though I never set so much as a toe in the place (enduring the woes of the trendies in Woody Allen’s Manhattan was as close as I wanted to get) I sympathize with the man’s quest to find a new neighborhood bar. My town — the sleepy burg of Highland Park, N.J. — has had nothing even resembling a neighborhood joint in decades — the closest it came, Charlie Brown’s, closed down several months ago. Even CB’s was, at best, only adequate, since the bar area was lined with more television screens than a Best Buy showroom, all set at volume levels that made it impossible to hold a conversation unless you literally shouted in your companion’s face. A new restaurant is moving into the CB space, but apparently without a liquor license, so too bad about that. Unless I want to march across the river to the Court Tavern, or hoof it up to a couple of Taprooms of the Damned near the Edison DMZ, I’m out of luck when I simply want to grab a quick nightcap.
I wouldn’t mind converting the bookstore into a literary liquor joint. I could establish a purdah parlor in the back for patrons who wanted to grunt and howl at a large TV screen, while reserving the front room for people whose skill sets enable them to drink and carry on conversations at the same time. One of the middle rooms would serve as the bar area.I’ve always liked the look of the village pub in Local Hero, and I’d use that as my model.
Unfortunately, the expense of refitting the building would be pretty high, and zoning regulations would be a problem no matter how many bribes and/or assassinations I arranged. Guess I’ll just have to settle for tipping a little Baileys into one of the coffee mugs every now and then. Strictly for literary medicinal purposes, you understand.