When I was fifteen or sixteen I discovered a coffee shop in the East Village called Cinema Classics and fell in love. You could stay as long as you liked, smoke inside, watch movies in the back and they made a mean chai latte. What was not to love? I went to Cinema Classics just about every day, hung out with friends, hung out alone, read books. (They had these great big cushioned window seats that you could curl up on for hours.) I took boyfriends there and knew the baristas...it was home. Slowly but surely, when I was seventeen, they started stocking booze and I found out that very shortly Cinema Classics the coffee shop would be no more, that the owner wasn't making enough money and decided to turn it into a bar. I didn't know when, but I knew it would be soon. It happened during my senior year of high school. I walked up after school with a friend of mine and tried the door. It was locked. The manager of the place, a guy named Ben, opened the door, said, "We're a bar now, we open at seven." and shut the door in my face.
The bar it became was Rififi and it only took about a year before I was back in there. My friend Lauren Flax (DJ Extraordinaire) and I were hanging out one night and she goes, "You have to come to Rififi and meet this bartender I have a crush on." (Underage drinking used to be a lot easier back then.) So I did, and it turned out that the bartender Lauren had a crush on was a girl I knew through a friend from high school and hadn't seen in years. Then, a few weeks later, I realized that someone else I knew (Karin) also worked at the bar. So I started hanging out there. When I was living in Boston I would come back to New York on the weekends and head straight to Rififi. There were four regular bartenders at the time and a whole slew of regulars and we all became good friends. Someone made a Friendster profile for the bar (that's how long ago this was) and it received comments like, "It's my "'Cheers'" to which someone responded, "Mine too. "'Where everybody knows your name.' Along with your dating history, music tastes, and financial situation." Because it was true. If you had nothing to do on any night of the week you could just head to Rififi and know that you'd know someone. I would head to Rififi after Christmas dinner with the family to hang out with the one Jewish bartender. We would play truth or dare and drink eggnog. People would come and go, but there was always a pretty solid group of regulars that you could count on.
There were nights when it was slow and whoever was working would shut down the bar so we could hang out until dawn watching movies in the back. (They still showed movies for a while.) After a while that all calmed down and they started doing comedy shows in the theater which attracted big names (Michael Showalter, David Cross, etc), on Sundays and Thursdays there were burlesque shows. It was a lot of fun. I even ended up working at the damn place for a while a couple of years ago.
In the past year or so I haven't hung out there nearly as much as I used to. Most of the people I knew who worked there quit or were fired, and I wasn't quite in the mood to make new friends. (There was also the added bonus of being unceremoniously fired myself.) So I went less and less, but it was still my go to bar when there was nothing else to do. Because, well, I grew up there. It felt comfortable.
For almost a year now rumors have been circulating that the bar would be closing, but it never happened. Then Tuesday night I got a text message from Karin saying, "Rififi closes tomorrow." And it was true. Wednesday night was the last night the bar was open. It was somehow fitting that bartender was completely random and I had to pay for drinks. It made it easier to say goodbye. My boss (who, oddly enough, I met at Rififi) likened the bar to "an old friend who you thought would always be there." Which I think is appropriate.
Friday night and nothing to do? To Rififi. When I saw my ex boyfriend for the first time in four years and it was terrible? I went straight to Rififi. When my friend got into a fist fight on First Avenue at 4:30 in the morning that resulted in my broken glasses and his broken nose? Rififi. Because I knew someone there would be able to provide napkins, ice, and whiskey.
So Rififi, I would like to thank you for the following things:
-My steady employment for the last four and a half years (Every job I've had in that time has been for someone I met at Rififi or at the bar itself)
-That guy I dated for over six months
- Embarrassing moments:
-And a shit ton of free drinks.
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7 years ago