21 Club - New York - USA

21 Club - New York - USA

The 21 Club, often simply 21, is an American traditional cuisine restaurant and former prohibition-era speakeasy, located at 21 West 52nd Street in New York City.

21 Club Environment

The Bar Room includes a restaurant, a lounge and, as the name implies, a bar. The walls and ceiling of the Bar Room are covered with antique toys and sports memorabilia donated by famous patrons. Perhaps the most famous feature of 21 is the line of painted cast iron lawn jockey statues which adorns the balcony above the entrance. In the 1930s, some of the affluent customers of the bar began to show their appreciation by presenting 21 with jockeys painted to represent the racing colors of the stables they owned. There are 33 jockeys on the exterior of the building, and 2 more inside the doors.

21 Club History

The first version of the club opened in Greenwich Village in 1922, run by cousins Jack Kreindler and Charlie Berns. It was originally a small speakeasy known as the Red Head. In 1925 the location was moved to a basement on Washington Place and its name was changed to Frontón. The following year it moved uptown to 42 West 49th Street, changed its name to the Puncheon Club, and became much more exclusive. In late 1929, to make way for the construction of Rockefeller Center, the club moved to its current location and changed its name to "Jack and Charlie's 21".

Although raided by police numerous times during Prohibition, the two were never caught. As soon as a raid began, a system of levers was used to tip the shelves of the bar, sweeping the liquor bottles through a chute and into the city's sewers. The bar also included a secret wine cellar, which was accessed through a hidden door in a brick wall which opened into the basement of the building next door (number 19). Though still used as a wine cellar today, part of the vault has been remodeled to allow a party of up to 20 guests to dine in private. 21 also stored the private wine collections of such celebrities as Presidents John F. Kennedy, Richard Nixon, and Gerald Ford; Joan Crawford; Elizabeth Taylor; Hugh Carey; Ernest Hemingway; Ivan Boesky; The Nordstrom Sisters; Frank Sinatra; Al Jolson; Gloria Vanderbilt; Sophia Loren; Mae West; Zsa Zsa Gabor; Aristotle Onassis; Gene Kelly; Gloria Swanson; Judy Garland; Sammy Davis, Jr.; and Marilyn Monroe.

At Christmas time the regulars received silk scarves decorated with a motif of various unique club insignia. Each scarf is numbered and has the Jockey logo and also features the famous railings associated with the building. Some of the most unusual and desirable were designed by Ray Strauss, founder of Symphony Scarves, in the 50s and 60s. A number of these can be seen in a 1989 book by Andrew Baseman, The Scarf. Siggie Nordstrom had a collection of several dozen of these she'd received through the years. 21 Club scarves have a large following among scarf collectors.

Every President since Franklin Delano Roosevelt except for George W. Bush has dined at 21 (although Bush's wife and daughters have), and the restaurant has been frequented by so many celebrities that many of them have favorite tables.

In 1985, the Kriendler and Berns families sold their interests in the restaurant to General Felt Industries, a holding company headed by Marshall S. Cogan and Stephen Swid. Ten years later, Cogan and Swid sold the restaurant to Orient-Express Hotels.

In 1995 it became part of Orient-Express Hotels Ltd. which in 2014 changed its name to Belmond Ltd.

On January 24, 2009, it ended its long-standing policy of requiring men to wear neckties at dinner; wearing a jacket is still required. Loaner jackets by Michael Kors, Ralph Lauren, and Hugo Boss are available for men who forget to wear a jacket to 21.

In summer of 2015 all 37 jockeys were removed for a three-month artist restoration and returned on October 21, 2015 for a ribbon cutting.

21 Club Reviews

Since 2003, the restaurant has been a recipient of the Wine Spectator Grand Award.

In 2014, Zagat gave it a food rating of 23 out of 30.

21 Club Restaurant General Information

21 Club Established:
21 Club Current Owner(s): 
Belmond Ltd. (since 1995)
Marshall S. Cogan and Stephen Swid (1985–1995)
Jack Kreindler and Charlie Berns and families (1922–1985)

21 Club Head Chef: Sylvain Delpique
21 Club Dress Code: Jacket required, jeans not permitted
21 Club Street Address:
21 Club
21 West 52nd Street

New York City
New York
United States
21 Club Reservations: Recommended
21 Club Website: www.21club.com
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