21 Goes Bust

21club-newyork

Izzy somehow missed it, but a few weeks ago The New York Times reported that the economic downturn has led to a true casual-ty: 21, the famed Manhattan restaurant, is no longer requiring that male diners wear ties, as it had for the prior 79 years:

The power-dining oasis, where Manhattan’s surviving masters of the universe daily attempt critical mass, announced last Thursday that the restaurant, virtually the last in town with a neckwear rule, had abandoned its tie requirement at dinner in its two dining rooms, the Bar Room and Upstairs at 21.

Ties are “preferred,” it said — indeed, “greatly appreciated.” And mind you, gentlemen, your jackets must stay on.

Actually, “21” instituted the policy “after Labor Day, a soft opening if you will,” said Bryan McGuire, the manager for the last, yes, 21 years. “We wanted to be on a more level playing field with our competitors,” he said, adding, “We didn’t think it was that big a deal.” Especially since, during lunch, the tie policy was ixnayed in 1996, he said.

The restaurant’s publicist, Diana Biederman, said she issued the release so people could “know about the policy in these challenging times.”

Mr. McGuire, though, insisted that the decision was not recession-driven.

But he allowed that the policy “could help the restaurant greatly in a time of difficulty.” Revenue, $18.5 million last year, is off by “double digits,” he said.

The restaurant has made other concessions to the economy, including free parking for all dinner patrons.

(For the record, he noted, ties are required in the 20-seat private dining room, the Wine Cellar.)

The Zagat 2009 New York City Restaurant guide has starred the Rainbow Room (which offers dinner on “selected” Friday and Saturday nights even as its landlord seeks to terminate its lease for nonpayment of rent) as the only other public restaurant requiring a tie among 13 that demand jackets.

“It is the final victory of Los Angeles,” Tim Zagat said.

As Woody Allen said of that city in Annie Hall, “I don’t want to live in a city where the only cultural advantage is that you can make a right turn on a red light.”

The ultra-formal should know that there are still a few New York holdouts when it comes to the ties-required rule.  You’ll just need to know someone who can get you into the likes of the Harvard Club.

3 Responses to “21 Goes Bust”

  1. ARS February 5, 2009 at 11:03 am #

    It’s a sad thing called Mory’s Syndrome.