It was a scene that would have shocked Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis, Carlyle’s longtime patron saint. In the hotel corridor, a security team was stationed to manage the crowds lined up in the elegant bar Bemelmans. It was early Friday afternoon. Before the cocktail hour.
Security is a new development of a handsome and prominent bar named after Ludwig Bemelmans, author of the “Madeline” children’s book series, which painted the wall when it first opened in the 1940s. Known for its pure martini, dark leather chaise lounges and live piano music (standard, jazz), Bemelmans has never had such nightclub-level energy, says manager Dimitrios Mihalopros. increase. “This line is a new phenomenon for us and started after Covid,” he said. “I tell people to come back later when we’re not busy, but they don’t want to leave. They rather want to wait.”
Sometimes there is a line as early as 2 pm. It’s a crowd of patrons (elderly upper east cider in tailored clothes, couples quietly celebrating anniversaries and birthdays) and curious young people in jeans, beanies, and leather jackets.
“The other day, a group of young girls asked me what cocktails they were drinking,” said Jennifer Cooke, Carlyle’s communicator. “It was a martini.”
Young customers take selfies under the golden ceiling or in front of the Steinway (flash is not allowed). They ask the server where Megan Markle and Prince Harry were sitting when they visited this fall.
“It’s a new crowd and we have to adjust to meet everyone’s needs,” said Michalopoulos.
Bemelmans is not the only old school venue in New York City that is experiencing a surge in young patrons. The Plaza Hotel’s Palm Court is almost completely reserved for afternoon tea on weekends, and many of the groups making those reservations are in their twenties, said manager Leo Capispisan. A few blocks away, at King Cole Bar, young customers are ordering a large number of red snappers (its signature Bloody Mary). Earlier this month, the 87-year-old Rainbow Loom welcomed hundreds of alternative music fans for the Album of the Year Party. Featuring the British post-punk band Dry Cleaning. It was thrown by the independent label Rockefeller Center and Rough Trade, which recently relocated its New York City store from Williamsburg, Brooklyn to 30 Rockefeller Plaza in Midtown.
Not everyone is impressed with this newly discovered youth nostalgia for mid-century Manhattan. Music enthusiast Daniel Kramer, who often goes to places like Elsewhere and Brooklyn Steel, attended the Rainbow Room event last week. While having fun, it didn’t have a dirty, cool feeling the other night, he said, comparing the show to weddings and Bar Mitzwah. “I’m always happy to check out the new music venue, but this felt strange,” he said. “It’s like next to Levan Bakery and FAO Schwarz.”
But for many young people, the traditional institution of the city that survived the pandemic now symbolizes a rich history and a resilient spirit. Prior to the coronavirus, Julia Berry in San Antonio, Texas, often went to downtown’s trendy cocktail lounges and upper east side sports bars when he came to the city for business.
Today, she emphasizes visiting the more proven spots she learned in New York-centric documentary films and films. “Looking around, so many places are closed and all these modern places are emerging,” she said. “I wanted to experience something special while I was still able to do it.”
Bemelmans manager Michalopoulos now spends most of the day ensuring that patrons secure the table and new young customers are properly dressed. “I can’t put it in torn jeans or tank tops,” he said. “We have a very well-established guest who expects some dress code enforcement.” He is accustomed to keeping large groups away. “We are a small bar,” he said.
Still, Michalopoulos strives to welcome newcomers. After all, the reason bars like Bemelmans and King Cole have survived for so long is that they appeal across generations. “We want young people to come to this old bar,” he said. “When they meet for the first time, I meet them, and I have already seen many come back again.”
Cassandra de la Eumenia will probably visit Bemermann shortly. After attending a dry cleaning show in the Rainbow Loom, she said she expanded her bucket list to visit as many retro bars as possible. Art Deco’s prosperity and being on the 65th floor of 30 Rock with skyline views was a welcome pace change from Bushwick’s trendy bar in Brooklyn, De La Eumenia said. “It made me feel like,’Oh, that’s why I live in New York City.'”