By Tom Liddy
GREENWICH VILLAGE — Chumley's operator has denied rumors that the famed West Village speakeasy would reopen as a sports bar.
"We at Chumley's have absolutely no intention of trying to become a sports bar or anything of the like," fumed Jim Miller in an email Monday night. "I don't know how such a rumor got started. That would really make no sense.
"We are in the process of restoring one of the city's oldest and most beloved speakeasies. A place that people from all over this city, this country, and other parts of the world come to visit and enjoy. Why would we ever tamper with that?"
An online petition launched last week claimed that the esteemed watering hole was planning a resurrection as a noisy sports den, putting the quiet neighborhood at risk from throngs of tourists and extra traffic.
"Chumleys, once a historical speakeasy located at 86 Bedford Street, between Barrow and Grove Streets, intends to reopen shortly. It will no longer operate as a speakeasy, but more closely to a sports bar," the petition, posted at www.ipetitions.com, reads.
According to the document, the saloon, which was frequented by literary lights like John Steinbeck, Ernest Hemingway and Norman Mailer, was planning to "advertise in tourist guidebooks as a destination bar."
The petition claimed the move would result in: "(1) Drunk and loud tourists/patrons talking and smoking on Bedford and Barrow streets until 1-2am ever [sic] night; (2) Loud noise in the interior courtyard, created by Barrow, Bedford, Grove and Bleeker [sic] streets; (3) Frequent honking, caused by delays as drunk patrons try to hail cabs on Bedford Street."
The document, which was expected to be presented to Community Board 2, says that the renovation of the bar, which shuttered in 2007 after its chimney collapsed, was being funded by the "Fireman's Union." It's not clear which organization that refers to.
As of Monday afternoon, it had received 28 signatures.
"A bar of any kind on this residential block, on a narrow street is inappropriate and by nature a nuisance to the peace and quiet to which residents are entitled," wrote one signatory.
"Preserve the history of Chumleys don't promote abuse of the space or the neighborhood. Chumleys was place for thinkers and poets and writers not a sports bar for drinkers and loud obnoxious tourists," wrote another.
Retired teacher and regular Nuri Akin, 55, hopes that the bar will be restored to its original condition.
"I think the old way is best," he said. "I liked the way it looked, so I miss the place. It's part of the history. I hope it will be the same."
But Miller said that residents have nothing to fear.
"We have every antique photo, book jacket, table, chair and all the memories of Chumley's locked securely away waiting to return as we attempt to put back the exact same atmosphere we all loved for so long," he wrote.