John Wilcock On The World’s Biggest Underground Bar


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March 12, 1958, Vol. III, No. 20

Folk Music Down Under

By John Wilcock

What looks like the world’s biggest underground bar is all set to open up on Bleecker Street, just south of Washington Square, some time this month. It won’t, however, be merely a bar, because it’s to be owned and operated by Art D’Lugoff, a 34-year-old Villager who’s built his reputation in the past, chiefly by staging concerts of calypso groups, steel bands, Spanish dancers, and folk singers.

The most itinerant of these, says Art, are folk singers, and so the new bar, as yet untitled, is projected as something of an unofficial headquarters for all such strolling players. It is planned that somebody casually strumming a guitar or musing aloud about the pervasive aspects of the foggy, foggy dew will always be on tap, even though the beer won’t. (Bottled only, it will include brands from almost every country in the world.)

Location of the new bar is beneath the 60-year-old Greenwich Hotel, though the entrance is via an elaborate stairway on Thompson Street; and if you think that potential customers are likely to meet up with panhandlers in that area, you’re probably right.

When I looked over the cavernous catacomb last week it was undergoing transformation from what had been a long-disused basement, and we picked our way midst a welter of paintpots, tables, chairs, barrels, and posters advertising D’Lugoff’s various other enterprises. The cellar is tall enough and wide enough to accommodate at least a dozen of the old-type double-decker buses, assuming they could be negotiated down the narrow stairway, and will seat almost 500 people.

There’ll be food available–barbecued beef, chicken, and hamburger–but no minimum charge except at week-ends, on which evenings formal folk-music concerts will supplement the casual entertainment provided by the customers.

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