Naked Lunch, the once sceney, always dimly lit Soho bar that opened in 1994 with scattered decorative nods to the buglike creatures found within William Burroughs’s most famous cut-up novel closed on January 3. On Friday, the bar issued a short farewell note on Twitter. It will now be replaced, apparently, by the first New York branch of the Regent Cocktail Club, a South Beach–based bar and lounge operated by LDV Hospitality.
Though it has gone through a few metamorphoses in the last two decades, Naked Lunch was a trailblazer. When restaurateurs Patrick Fahey (Macao Trading Co., Bisutoro) and Jeffrey Surut opened Naked Lunch in the summer of 1994, a big cocktail bar in a former fan shop on the fringes of Soho was a dicey proposition, even if hotshot actors Kevin Dillon, Anthony Michael Hall, and even Brad Pitt had reportedly signed on as partners. “Sophisticated people don’t care if celebrity investors are there, but the general public actually thinks they will see these people,” Fahey told New York.
A month or so later, more buzz and a JFK Jr. sighting helped cement the bar’s reputation as a place to drink and be seen. The Times recounted its haphazard early days in a piece on Fahey and Surut, including a funny opening-night moment where Surut had to call his mom in Brooklyn to bring a few bottles of vodka over, because the bar had run out.
New tenant the Regent Cocktail Club, which was named Best New Bar 2013 by the New Times and topped numerous 2013 year-end lists, is steeped in old-school cocktail culture and serves a straightforward menu of classic daiquiris, gin and tonics, and Sazeracs for $14 apiece; bartenders, meanwhile, offer drinks specials daily, and light food is served. Representatives of the incoming venue are scheduled to appear CB2 Manhattan’s SLA Licensing Committee No. 2 meeting on January 16. In the meantime, here’s an interview with managing partner Joshua Wagner that covers the basic set-up, and is worth the read for the reference to Al Capone’s syphilitic later years alone. “Expect the basics to be perfect,” says Wagner. “But then, expect the unexpected when you come in.”