BETWEEN ESTABLISHMENTS that have formally announced their closing and those still plodding valiantly along lies a vast restaurant limbo of darkened windows and no visible activity but, thankfully, no for rent signs either. One local landmark that falls into this category is Knicker bocker Bar & Grill (the Knick, for short), a Greenwich Village mainstay that opened in 1977 on the corner of University Place and 9th Street and has preserved much of its vintage charm as well as its seasoned clientele. The Knickerbocker is known for its live jazz, its horseshoe booths, its solid American-chophouse menu, and a categorically unpretentious vibe that somehow appeals to everyone from multigenerational families to local celebrities (Isaac Mizrahi, Simon Doonan, Chris Noth, and F. Murray Abraham have all sung its praises). Its musical talent has included the likes of a young Harry Connick Jr., for one, who claims his twice-weekly gig in the late ’80s helped launch his career; more recently, Noah Baumbach used the carpeted, poster-hung premises as a location for his film Marriage Story starring Scarlett Johansson and Adam Driver. Although we can’t attest to what the joint looked like on opening night, we can say, having lived in the immediate vicinity for years, that it has remained remarkably unchanged, down to the familiar faces at the bar and the welcoming ones at the door.
Given some hope by a small sign on the window, we recently reached out to managing partner Ron D’Allegro, who happened to be on-site getting the place in shape. He has great news to report: Not only will the restaurant be reopening within weeks, he says, but “I’m just about to re-sign a new lease for another 12 years.” The only thing holding him up, D’Allegro says, is permits and inspections. “We had to have the original exhaust system updated and have construction done,” he says. “It was supposed to be three months, but it turned into an eight-, nine-month project—a million dollars and a year later, here we are.” Time to do necessary repairs was the upside to being closed; the downside was the 48 employees furloughed March 15. The restaurant received a PPP loan and set up a GoFundMe, which has raised nearly $70,000 to date (F. Murray himself graciously kicked in). And many former employees are returning, including Clara O’Marde, a commanding kitchen presence for 35 years and the executive chef for the past four. (The Antiguan immigrant is to thank for the new farro salad and occasional jerk-chicken special.)
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