Until now, the National Arts Club has been the address of choice for scandal and intrigue on Gramercy Park. But all that changed a few weeks ago, when the owners of the beloved but famously grungy Gramercy Park Hotel abruptly shut down their bar and restaurant. Word got out that the bar's staff would no longer be required just as Monday-night happy hour was about to begin: "They told us service would be suspended as of 1 a.m.," says a distraught habitué.
Rowdy rock stars were once the hotel's biggest headache, but recently, the Gramercy's difficulties have been in-house. In March, co-owner David Weissberg was arrested after police uncovered a stash of weapons -- including a .357-caliber rifle and 548 rounds of ammunition -- in the hotel basement.
And now there's the mysterious shuttering. "The closing is a sad situation," says Eileen Tierney, a manager at the hotel. "But we can't do anything about it. If we do open again, it won't be before the end of the year."
The bar, which opened in 1929, has long attracted actors, Europeans, the occasional lanky model (the Elite agency's headquarters is around the block), and punk-rockers. Debbie Harry and Chris Stein took up residence for a time; the Clash were frequent visitors. "It was like the bar scene in Star Wars," says one photo editor. More recently, the mix was carbonated with celebs like John Waters, Chloë Sevigny, Terry Richardson, and Ethan Hawke. Locals enjoyed playing out their own personal dramas amid the boldface names. "One night, my boyfriend and I were breaking up," says Basia Zamorska, a stylist, "and Malcolm McLaren was sitting behind my boyfriend's shoulder."
Left high and dry by their favorite watering hole, neighbors have been shaking down their doormen for more information. Some speculate the owners may be looking to sell, perhaps to Gramercy Tavern's Danny Meyer, who lives across the street. "I actually lived in the hotel for about six months," he says fondly. Still, Meyer has no plans to further expand his empire, "though I could certainly deal with the commute."
What locals fear most is that their dive could go glitz. "Rande Gerber!" says a loyal lawyer. "That is the worst-case scenario: the 'Gramercy Whiskey.' " He grimaces. "Can you imagine?"