21 West 52nd Street in 2018
|Owner(s)||Belmond Ltd. (since 1995)|
Marshall S. Cogan and Stephen Swid (1985-1995)
Jack Kreindler and Charlie Berns and families (1922-1985)
|Head chef||Sylvain Delpique|
|Dress code||Jacket required, jeans not permitted|
|Street address||21 West 52nd Street|
|City||New York City|
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 best known 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.
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 on many occasions during Prohibition, the premises staff had methods to protect the club from the authorities. 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; The Nordstrom sisters; Frank Sinatra; Al Jolson; Gloria Vanderbilt; Sophia Loren; Mae West; Aristotle Onassis; Gene Kelly; Gloria Swanson; Judy Garland; Sammy Davis, Jr.; and Marilyn Monroe.
At Christmas time, the regular clientele received silk scarves decorated with a motif of the club insignia. Each scarf is numbered and has the Jockey logo and also features the 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.
The prestigious International Debutante Ball, which has presented many daughters and granddaughters of United States Presidents to high society at the Waldorf-Astoria Hotel in New York City, has hosted its pre-ball parties at 21 Club.
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, however, is still required, and loaner jackets by Michael Kors and Ralph Lauren are available for men to borrow if they have neglected to bring one.
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.