MANHATTAN (PIX11) — It’s an all-too-familiar story — another slice of old New York is about to get erased.
After 60 years and a long run as one of New York’s most legendary dive bars, Smith’s Bar and Restaurant in Hell’s Kitchen will close its doors Thursday, an employee confirmed to PIX11 News. The precise cause was not immediately known — an employee offered no comment — though many similar establishments have been felled by rent increases.
The bar was one of the last links to the old-school Times Square, and still buzzes with its famous neon signage, an icon of the neighborhood.
“Whether it be a stiff drink, a baseball game, the perfect burger, or a live band, Smith’s serves up everything with all the charm and hospitality befitting a classic New York City establishment,” the business says on its Yelp page. Its website is no longer in service.
The imminent demise of Smith’s was first reported Monday morning by the website Jeremiah’s Vanishing New York.
“Smith’s opened in 1954. For decades, it was a deep, dark dive off Times Square,” wrote Jeremiah Moss. “Then, sometime around 2009 or so, they were bought by a chain of anonymous pubs. The inside was renovated, the clientele changed … I stopped eating there.”
The bar was the scene of a Christmas Day tragedy in 1994, when an on-duty police officer committed suicide in a booth during a meal break. [See related video for original WPIX report from 1994.]
The longtime bar, at West 44th Street and Eighth Avenue, has hung on in a neighborhood that has been transformed around it, with peep shows and porn shops replaced by chain restaurants and condos, though pockets of old grit remain.
Another bar of similar vintage lore, the Subway Inn on Manhattan's East Side, is being forced out of its longtime home, but its story does not appear to have a bleak ending. The bar plans to move to a new location nearby, and take its sign with it.