If all that talk of bygone dining institutions had you wanting to travel back to the time of Schrafft’s and Lutèce, boy do we have a treat for you. We’ve found the back bar from Lüchow’s, the magnificent German dining hall and beer garden that was one of Manhattan’s most sprawling and storied restaurants. We’ve discovered part of it in a Latin nightclub in Bay Ridge, of all places — and here’s the amazing part: Another part of it is for sale.
Walk into Café Remy and the back bar may seem familiar — the three mirrored arches with floral wood carvings, flanked by bottle cabinets, were left over from the space’s previous incarnation, T.J. Bentley’s. But it turns out, they date back even further. Remy owner Eddie Batiz tells us that the owner of T.J. Bentley’s bought the face of the back bar at auction some time after 1982, when Lüchow’s closed after a century on 14th Street. The panels, says Batiz, were transported directly from Lüchow’s to Bay Ridge. When Batiz moved Remy Lounge from its original Manhattan location into the T.J. Bentley’s space in 2007, he wasn’t about to get rid of the bar. “It’s a beautiful bar,” he tells us. “So I had to design the place to try to match the bar.” And so a bar that once saw tuxedoed string ensembles performing waltzes is now on duty at reggaeton parties. Who knows what Victor Herbert (the composer who founded ASCAP at Lüchow’s in 1914) would think of that.
Meanwhile, Steve Stollman, who restores and sells antique bars, tells us that he has still more pieces of the back bar — including two more arches. (It’s uncertain whether they belong to the same back bar that graces Remy Lounge, or whether they’re from a different part of the restaurant — Lüchow’s had several public dining rooms and two private rooms, after all.) Stollman helped restore the bar before Lüchow’s closed in 1982. Years later, he snuck into the building just months before it was demolished (it was razed in 1995 after a suspicious fire and eventually replaced by an NYU dorm). “The roof was breached,” he says. “There were homeless people living in there. People’s legs went through the floor; it was so rotted out. I climbed in and peeled the paneling off the walls and got some of the columns and some of the back bar.”
The pieces, some of which can be seen at Stollman’s website, sat in his basement for seven years while preservationists attempted to revive the restaurant, but eventually Stollman sold a handful of pieces to the owner of Capital Club 16 in Asheville, North Carolina, who used them for his back bar. Stollman has the remaining pieces in an antiques store on Diamond Street in Hudston, New York — he’s selling the larger arch (it’s about eight feet long) from the back bar for $4,000, the smaller one (about four feet long) for $2,500, and the eight-foot-by-eight-foot wall panels for $3,500.
Stollman admits he hasn’t marketed aggressively over the years, but he’s surprised the relics haven’t attracted more attention. “In the nineteenth century, Lüchow’s was the place,” he says. “Its heyday was when the Academy of Music was wailing and gangsters and showbiz people began to form the core of New York’s high society. But in its later years, it just became a place that people who liked German food went to.”