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    MISCHIEF MAYHEM AND STICKBALL ON 7TH AVE
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CHRIS POH



McManus Cafe as seen in American Public House Review
PETER McMANUS CAFE




Scores of actors, writers, musicians and great thinkers have spent time ruminating about their particular craft while guests at the famed Hotel Chelsea. One of their resident over achievers, Dylan Thomas helped to bequest legendary status upon the White Horse Tavern. Having reviewed the list of notables that lodged on 23rd Street, I concluded that most shared Thomas’s predisposition toward drink. This leads me to believe that while the Welshman drank at the White Horse most everyone else took their leisure at Peter McManus Café. This bit of speculation is not without some firsthand evidence. 

During the late 1980s I spent a fair amount of time on both sides of that storied bar on the corner of 19th Street and 7th Ave, and celebrity carousing was part and parcel of this Chelsea pub. While many other Manhattan settings have bolstered their bottom line on the notion that some famed individual had graced their mahogany slopes, no mere immortal of the stage or screen could upstage the cast of indigenous characters that have been slapping glass to wood at this locale since 1936. The appeal and strength of this establishment can be attributed to its egalitarian philosophy, and the three generations of family that have made it their mission to assure that all who enter this house will be treated as equals. I was privileged to know and work alongside two of those generations. Sadly, James McManus Sr. passed away in 2001. His son James Jr. affectionately known as “Jamo” has taken up the watch.



McManus' bar as seen in American Public House Review
It is the philosophy of the McManus family that all patrons are created equal.



That vigil will include riding herd over the usual amount of mischief and mayhem that occurs on this type of turf. During my time behind the stick I witnessed some extraordinary examples of human shortcomings and confrontations. But mostly that stewardship will be about maintaining those traditions that are unique to this neighborhood setting.

Twice a year on a Sunday, 19th Street is closed to traffic so that the regulars and their families can engage in a daylong game of stickball. Beer, soda and hotdogs are provided free of charge by McManus’s. Every Thanksgiving the bar serves turkey dinners at no cost to those patrons that do not have the advantage of a traditional family gathering.


backroom at McManus' as seen in American Public House Review
The backroom



Three generations of McManus as seen in American Public House Review
Three generations of McManus


Like a lot of other watering holes in New York City, Peter McManus Café has all the key ingredients that would garner it a prime position in anyone’s directory of great places to imbibe. The punch list of expected physical attributes is complete. There is of course the classic wood bar, tin ceilings, tiled floors, black and white photos, a fish tank, old phone booths and a smattering of Tiffany glass. There are rumors of a sordid past that include talk of a speakeasy and an illicit business relationship with the gangster, Dutch Shultz. Then, there are those continued sightings of Hollywood elite coupled to the fact that the place remains a favored location for both film and television.

But what truly makes McManus’s one of the greatest bars in New York City and well beyond the five boroughs are those acts of generosity and kindness by the family and staff: stickball on a Sunday, turkey on a Thursday and a good time on any day!



Mc Manus bar from the door as seen in American Public House Review
Pull up a stool, you're one of the folks.





PETER McMANUS CAFE

152 7th Avenue at 19th Street
New York, New York 10011
(212) 929-9691

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