Nylon Nights

If You Picked Up A Downtown Bar & Plopped It In Herald Square...

You’d probably get something like The Bronze Owl, from David Rabin of Temple Bar.

Hours after I had OK’d the use of “Midtown” as a punchline in another story, I’m getting off the 1 train, ramming into tourists who’ve decided that they must take a selfie in the middle of the stairs, and dodging more slow walkers, all to preview a new bar — in Herald Square.

Technically, The Bronze Owl — “a chic new haven in an unexpected locale,” which is how the news release finesses it — is closer to the kitty-corner Greeley Square, but once you cross the juniper-green threshold, it remarkably doesn’t feel like you’re in the Manhattan version of flyover country at all. That might be because of some very effective cafe curtains and soundproofing but more likely because David Rabin of American and Temple bars is involved, along with chef Franklin Becker, Stephen Loffredo, and Max Green of Amor y Amargo.

Hall PR

As I order a Pressure Sensitive with tequila, velvet falernum, almond, and lime oil, publicist Steven Hall helpfully says that the Owl’s target audience includes office workers; sports (and, presumably, Madonna) fans heading to Madison Square Garden; diners looking to pregame Korean barbecue; and Kips Bay residents who have nowhere else to go. The undulating leather booths, oversize club chairs, and funny tubular light fixtures laced up like they’re wearing corsets suggest that those groups might also come through to feel like they’re more downtown than they actually are.

The disorientingly clear sound system certainly helps, too, as does the insulating linoleum floor — “not tinny,” as Rabin notes, drinking a miniature Coke from the bottle. Samantha Ronson has already stopped by, he says, and Wisdom Kaye, the social media fashion guy who styles $100,000 Chrome Hearts looks. Italian-inspired picky bits like fried mozzarella balls and rounds of smashed-pea-topped polenta circulate, but I save those for later because we’re grousing about members clubs and how there’s no late-night ambiance at restaurants anymore because everyone got used to eating at 7:30 p.m. because of the pandemic.

Samantha RonsonBFA
Gail ScottBFA
1 / 2
1 / 2

Later, a rumor spreads that some of the art on the walls is AI-generated — most of the pieces are a bit like if you ran prompts like “burlesque dancers wearing owl masks” and “the cave painting of Lascaux but with owls” through DALL-E 2, but a theme’s a theme. (I’m told the name — and everything else — refers to statues of the birds of prey in Greeley Square.)

Vespers are still being shaken and tuna tartare passed as the event’s published end-time quickly approaches. I follow a couple out onto W 33rd Street. “Wow, reality really hits you in the face,” he says. (Then, “I don’t think I had enough dinner.”) We are standing directly in front of an orange safety fence across from a De Janeiro — and, right on cue, the wind kicks up some construction dust that blows into my contacts. But just moments before, we could’ve been anywhere else.