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Midtown Musings: The Campbell Bar Reborn

New Yorkers had a good collective cry this summer when The Campbell Apartment, a famed, clubby hangout hidden in Grand Central Station, shut its doors. Originally the private office for railroad tycoon John Campbell in the 1920s, it transitioned to radio studio and then police station in the ’80s before finding its groove as one of the city’s swankiest bars. Mark Grossich restored the space to its former ornate glory and ran the cocktail bar since 1999. Last year, in a loud, ugly legal battle, he lost the lease to Scott Gerber. So we’ve been anxious to see how Gerber handles what had become a Midtown institution, with its regal decor and matching dress code.

Thankfully, the decor is much the same. More controversially, the dress code is gone, and it no longer feels as much like a secret club as it once did. Now, a large awning on Vanderbilt Avenue makes the entrance easy to find. “We want people to know about it,” Scott Gerber told The New York Times. “We don’t want it to be that secret place. We want it to be more inclusive.”

Did he succeed? The Refinery team visited to The Campbell to find out, and we’re happy to confirm that, yes, the new incarnation of one of our favorite bars is still one of our favorite bars. And yes, it’s still the kind of place you’ll want to dress up for, even if that dress code is gone. What of the cocktails? Stellar, like always. That’s probably because Paris Durante—the Campbell Apartment’s barkeep for 16 years—hasn’t moved under the new management. He’s still there, behind the massive, shiny bar, serving one delicious Manhattan after another.

“It’s such a beautiful room,” he told the Times. “You don’t expect to see what you see. It’s like a church. I think of New York as the center of the universe, and this bar is at the center of that universe.” Cheers to that!

The Campbell: 15 Vanderbilt Ave; 212-297-1781

 

 

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