GREENWICH VILLAGE — The subterranean West 4th Street bar Down the Hatch turns 20 years old on Wednesday — and some of its customers have sidled up to the bar for just as long.
Operating partner Jennifer Kay, who began working at Down the Hatch in 1994, said she has seen customers grow up at the bar.
"We've had couples meet each other here, come back to propose, and then we get invited to their weddings," she said.
Kay, a Brooklyn-born East Village resident, said attentive bartenders, inexpensive drinks, good bar food and TVs tuned to sports have been the 179 W. 4th St. bar's formula for lasting success.
"I think we don't try to be anything we're not. What you see is what you get, which is refreshing," she said.
On Wednesday after 8 p.m., the bar will serve half-price pints and $8 domestic pitchers in celebration of its anniversary.
Owner Mitch Banchik said he and another worker renovated the bar themselves in 1991, tearing down walls, refinishing the floors and building furniture in what used to be a Japanese restaurant. They worked on the bar over five months on a very limited budget, Banchik said.
"We only had enough money to buy one cash register," he said. "We bought the second one after our first night in business."
Down the Hatch's nine-person staff will celebrate Halloween together this month, in addition to their years together.
"Being here on West 4th Street, we get a front row seat to the best Halloween costumes in the world," Kay said.
The staff doesn't know yet what group costume it will have this month but has been members of glam-rock band Kiss, the TV show "Lost" and cartoon characters from "The Flintstones" in previous years.
Hair of the Dog is scheduled to open at the corner of Orchard and Stanton streets in December, Kay said. The new bar will be similar to Down the Hatch but larger.
Casual bars, which Kay refers to as dives only "affectionately," will persevere in the Village despite continually rising rents and buyouts, she said, pointing to a multi-story residential building where the one-story West 4th Street Saloon used to be.
"People will always want a dollar beer and someone who will listen," she said.