A man dressed in mod sits upon a brass rail, lining a street perch. Exhaling smoke from a spliff with painterly hands beneath the highest tree on Bank street, he actively preserves an old but not forgotten vibe on one of the city’s most memorable blocks. Out of the corner bar entrance, a fellow mate of the first fellow sways over, asking for a drag and both politely introducing themselves to me, a strange passerby.
We meet and greet and instantly fall into conversation. The bar tender, whose well acquainted patrons swoon over, soon joins us for a smoke. Through a spontaneous occurrence I began to discover the history of the establishment we were all gathered around, an iconic bar of the 80’s, a sister bar to its Memphis location, a place that hasn’t changed in decades, Automatic Slims.
Considered the best singles bar in NYC in the 1980’s, when the West Village was not a desirable neighborhood, but rather a distressed part of town missing the opulent caste for which it is home to today, Automatic Slims was one of few bars open to the brave willing to step into the ghetto-like surroundings, some 30 years ago. This belt of NYC’s westside, stretching from 14th street to Canal street, and from the westside highway to Hudson street, was once heavily peppered with trannies earning a living through prostitution, meat hangers on every corner of its Meatpacking district and a center for NYC’s homeless. Each visit from its willing patrons then, proved a courageous feat to those in search of a match.
Today, with the neighborhood virtually unrecognizable, Automatic Slims is more of an antithesis of the mega-clubs and bars that dominate the revamped now center for nightlife scenery. The bar leads a double life, a mellow bar by day, serving charred burgers and bar food, which turns into a dance party with rows of shots lined up as the sun sets over the Hudson river.
Swarms of night goers flock to the unchanged establishment for a shot, a dance, great classic, unpopular music and perhaps a conversation with a stranger at the bar. The bartender, who acts on the side, claims the bar is an institution of sorts, one that has survived untouched for many decades, due to the owners resistance to sell the building for much more than it is valued at, avoiding another Starbucks corner.
Another rarity the bar offers its patrons, is dog-friendly Sundays and Mondays. So you can now enjoy a tall brew with your canine, and if they are lucky like the many singles who continue to find each other at this once trending 80’s connection-making joint, your canine could meet its special four-legged match, too.
After four years living on Bank Street, and oddly never once wandering into this legendary pub, I decided to detour off my walk path and stop in for a tallboy vodka double. Accessing the bar through its unusual corner door entrance, I stepped on to the red and black checkered vinyl floor, as if entering a type of music hall . Observing the black and white photographs of classic legends like Jim Morrison on the white washed walls, a Hendrix tune entranced the room.
In a city where two things are ever-constant, pulsing energy and change, Automatic Slims is a time capsule treasure, with a dichotomized, some say “baby-making vibe.” A must see for any curious persons of a New York City in its former years.