TURTLE BAY — Turtle Bay bar hoppers, say goodbye to Black Finn and hello to Tammany Hall Tavern.
The pub once known for rowdy patrons has been completely remodeled, from the plumbing to the flooring to the staff, said owner Joe Schimmel.
The newly christened Tammany Hall Tavern is celebrating the makeover with a grand opening Friday night. The restaurant will be serving complimentary drinks from 6 to 7 p.m. and from 10 to 11 p.m., with another hour of free drinks planned for Saturday night as well.
“Every single thing in the place we redid,” said Schimmel, 31, who is part of Public House Investments, a restaurant group that owns establishments elsewhere around Manhattan, as well as in Philadelphia and outside Washington, D.C.
Schimmel took over the restaurant last year and immediately set about ridding the pub of its rough and tumble image. The new renovations mark the final stage of that transformation.
"It was an aggressive place where fights did happen," Schimmel said. "We just wanted to go more restaurant-forward."
The change could be a welcome one for neighborhood residents, who have voiced concerns about bars in the area for years.
This summer, members of Community Board 6's business affairs and street activities committee engaged in an intense back-and-forth with Ken McCoy, owner of two Pig 'n' Whistle pubs, when he came to the committee looking to open a pub right next door to Black Finn.
McCoy wanted a 4 a.m. closing time, as is legally sanctioned in New York City, but the committee members and residents expressed concerns about having two late-night pubs side by side in an area already dogged by nightlife complaints.
Members of the business affairs and street activities committee have also been questioning liquor license applicants about the focus of their establishments. They have scrutinized proposed menus and encouraged venues to focus more on food and less on drinks.
Schimmel said food has been a top priority in the remaking of Black Finn.
He brought in a chef from one of the restaurant group's other venues to revamp the menu to include simple food that tastes good. Although it isn’t finalized yet, the tentative menu will include calamari, flatbread pizzas, seared tuna tacos and a “triple double burger,” with two patties and three pieces of cheese, that Schimmel said he can’t stop eating.
The restaurant started serving customers earlier this week with a soft opening in preparation for the big celebration on Friday night. So far, Schimmel said the response has been positive.
The first customer who came in for lunch ordered the chicken avocado club and raved about it, Schimmel said.
“It was a really great feeling to have the first person to come in make a big deal about the food,” he added. “I think [Tammany Hall Tavern] will attract a different crowd."
The menu was only part of the renovation. Over the course of three weeks, the bar has undergone a complete change in aesthetic, from basic bar to British pub.
Schimmel had the entire place painted, turning mustard yellow walls a silvery gray. Tables took the place of booths. The flooring was ripped out, and new espresso-colored wood was put in its place. The space is now manned by an entirely new staff and management team.
The designers have also incorporated bits of New York history across the walls, including framed pieces that recall the Democratic political machine centered at Tammany Hall, which dominated New York City politics from the 1800s to the early part of the 20th century.
The bar’s makeover is not yet complete, Schimmel said, with several additions planned over the next few weeks. An oyster bar will be installed in a nook at the front of the bar. More art will be added to the walls, and the restaurant’s menu will be finalized and printed.
Once those finishing touches are put in place, the restaurant will begin expanding its events offerings, said event coordinator Nicole Castello, with weekly dinners or oyster and beer pairings likely to begin soon.
The grand opening will be held Friday night at the new Tammany Hall Tavern at 218 E. 53rd Street, between Second and Third avenues.