Will Gehry’s $3,000 Studios Strip Downtown of a Bikini Bar, or Save It?

bikini bartenders Will Gehrys $3,000 Studios Strip Downtown of a Bikini Bar, or Save It?Who doesn’t love bartenders in bikinis? Besides the prudish Gray Lady, that is.

The Times has a story about Nassau Bar, located on the street bearing its name, a downtown institution to rival Fraunces Tavern where cheap shots and cold beers have been slung by bikini-clad bartenders since at least 1983. Tips are encouraged, photographs strictly prohibited. Times have been tough for the bar ever since the 9/11 attacks hobbled the area, and road repairs–”gas and cable workers split open the street the way doctors crack a chest”–have only made things worse.

But that could all change. Across the street, the spectacular 5 Beekman, with a cast-iron atrium that recently became an Internet sensation, is being turned into a luxury hotel in all likelihood. More immediately, Frank Gehry’s 8 Spruce Street apartments will be opening next year, with probably the most expensive rentals south of Chambers Street if not for all of downtown.

Yet is this really the sort of crowd that would not flock to a kitschy dive, especially one with underdressed servers? The Times suggests “the new neighbors would seem to leave the bar in the cross hairs of gentrification,” but in the next paragraph, the bar’s owner recounts the delightful night an “uptight” couple had after succumbing to their first round of drinks. 

Sure, there is an elementary school in the base of 8 Spruce Street, which could cause some problems. But for those living above it, how many of them won’t be bankers and other assorted Wall Street types, fans of flesh if ever there were any? And those who are simply there for the architecture, for the garish bay windows, is that not the epitome of kitsch? The bar’s neighbors, the African American Art Gallery and the Silk Shop, which no longer even carries silk, may not fare so well, but The Observer suspects Nassau Bar will be just fine.

Whatever does end up happening, one thing seems for sure. Like when a two-star review is bestowed on some obscure eatery by a Times restaurant critic, Nassau Bar will be doing more than O.K. for at least a little while.

mchaban [at] observer.com | @mc_nyo