WEST VILLAGE — Legendary Bedford Street bar Chumley's is set to reopen on Sept. 6 — but it may not be recognizable to the firefighters and other neighborhood regulars who frequented the place for decades and fought for its return since its 2007 shuttering.
The restaurant is now under the ownership of Alex Borgognone, the proprietor of nearby Sushi Nakazawa, where sushi made by a celebrity chef is sold for $120 to $150 a night.
Borgognone told The New York Times that the reopened joint will be "Chumley's on steroids," and "will never be the Chumley's it used to be."
"We’re at a different point. We’re in a different era. The rents are different," Borgognone told the Times, adding that he "never went to Chumley's."
The interior is largely new, according to what Borgognone told the Times, with patterned wallpaper, leather banquettes, French oak tables, and a brand new bar. One of the few holdovers that old-timers may recognize will be the book jackets that used to adorn the walls and some portraits of the writers who used to frequent the place in its heyday.
In the years before a wall collapse forced it to shutter in 2007, the bar became a haven for the neighborhood's local firefighters, many of whom picked up bartending shifts on their days off and became close with the former owner, Steve Shlopak.
The smoke eaters of Sixth Avenue's Engine 24, Ladder 5 saw a lot of tragedy over the years, from the 1994 Watts Street fire that killed three of their colleagues, to the 11 men they lost on Sept. 11, 2001 and the pair who died a few years later fighting a massive blaze at the old Deutsche Bank building near Ground Zero.
Chumley's was their home ever since Shlopak mounted a portrait of Capt. John Drennan, a close friend of his and one of the firefighters who died in the Watts Street fire. He also named the bar's red beer Captain Drennan's Red Ale.
"I guess that's what kind of cemented the relationship between the firehouse and Chumley's down the street," retired firefighter Jim Miller, who took over the bar after Shlopak's death, previously told DNAinfo New York.
The two firefighters who died in the Deutsche Bank fire were Miller's best friends. One of them, Bobby Beddia, "was Mr. Chumley," Miller said, and tended bar there every Friday night and Sundays during the day.
Former Mayor Michael Bloomberg named the block of Bedford Street where Chumley's sits "Firefighter Bobby Beddia Way" back in 2009, but Miller and his friends never had a dedicated ceremony because they wanted to hold a service at Chumley's once it reopened.
"So we could all have a beer in his name," Miller told DNAinfo.
Miller and longtime local Chumley's lovers fought for years to reopen the bar, tangling with a newer group of residents who organized under the name BarFreeBedford.
The group sought every possible avenue to stop the bar from reopening, from showing up at community board meetings to suing the State Liquor Authority and the Department of Buildings and taking out newspaper ads.
Miller finally brought in Borgognone earlier this year, telling DNAinfo New York he was at a loss for any other way to appease his opponents and saw Borgognone as someone who could deliver an operation "to the style the neighborhood wants."
Miller did not respond to repeated text messages, voicemails and emails since the Times write-up of the reopening. It's unclear if the firefighters will get to have their ceremony for Beddia.
Borgognone told the Times that dinners at the new Chumley's would be about $50 per person, not including drinks, and that he anticipates regulars coming in a couple of times a week.