By: Ellen Cans
New York City’s old-school bars and venues have gained popularity with Generation Z youth. Bemelmans, the elegant bar in the classy Carlyle Hotel, is now busy managing crowded lines waiting in the hotel’s corridor, even well before cocktail hour. The bar, first opened in the 1940s, is named after Ludwig Bemelmans, author of the “Madeline” children’s book series, who also had painted the venue’s walls. The distinguished venue, featuring live jazz piano music, had always been popular with older well-dressed Upper East Siders or posh couples celebrating a quiet milestone, but never had crowds of young people. As per a recent article in the NY Times, now Bemelmans has hired an entire security team to manage the crowd waiting to get in.
“The line is a new phenomenon for us, something that started after Covid,” said Dimitrios Michalopoulos, the manager. “I tell people to come back later when we are less busy, but they don’t want to leave. They would rather wait.” The youngsters come, many dressed in jeans, beanies and leather jackets. Many of them take selfies beneath the gold ceiling or in front of the Steinway piano. They ask the waiters where Prince Harry and Meghan Markle had sat when they had frequented the bar in the fall. “It’s a new crowd, and we have to adjust to meet everyone’s needs,” said Mr. Michalopoulos.
The young patrons’ newfound nostalgia for mid-century Manhattan has also benefitted other classic NYC venues in the aftermath of the pandemic. At the historic Plaza Hotel, business has been booming at The Palm Court on weekends for its afternoon tea. Many of the groups making reservations in their 20’s, said Leo Capispisan, a manager. The King Cole Bar, at the century-old St. Regis New York, has similarly been attracting the Generation Z crowd. Also, near Rockefeller Center the 87-year-old Rainbow Room has been luring the young crowds. In November, hundreds of alternative music fans had frequented the venue for an album of the year party, featuring the English post-punk band Dry Cleaning.
These classic venues seem to have become a symbol of New York city’s resilience and rich history, now having survived the COVID-19 pandemic. “When you look around, so many places are closing, and all these modern places are popping up,” said Julia Berry, of San Antonio, Texas, who used to opt for the new trendy spots when she visited NYC for business. “It made me want to experience something special while I still can.”