The Monkey Bar originally opened near the appeal of Prohibition, on the ground floor of the then-new, luxurious Hotel Elysée in the Midtown. Known as a comfortable locale to while away an afternoon with an impromptu companion, the new bar at the Elysee – known to some customers, between drinks, as the “easy lay” –would become the New York home of Tallulah Bankhead and the site of a number of historically significant events during its lifetime, such as the untimely death of Tennessee Williams, when the playwright mysteriously choked on an eye-dropper. For decades, the Monkey bar provided a cozy outpost for admen in bespoke suits, after-hours politicians, and media barons looking for a little fun.
After a few years in disrepair, the Monkey Bar was purchased in 2009, and returned to its former glory by then Vanity Fair editor Graydon Carter, his wife, Anna, and hotelier Jeff Klein. Renowned illustrator Ed Sorel was commissioned to paint a three-paneled mural paying homage to the great Jazz Age figures who once sailed through the saloon doors. The dining room’s lush red leather banquettes and dim, attractive lighting have restored the fizzy thrill of both glamorous and cozy- and harken back to a bygone era when a gentleman never left the house without a tie and a lady always had a pair of white gloves in her purse.