Stephane Bibeau and Adam Schop, known for their Hell’s Kitchen eateries, have unveiled Local 42: a dive bar blending tradition with their signature no-frills gastronomy, enriched by the past’s charm and crafted by a scenic designer’s vision.
“When we signed the lease on March 1, 2022, we thought in six to eight months we would be open,” Stephane Bibeau. It’s at that point he found David Tousley, a member of the United Scenic Artists union to help him.
“They asked me to come in and design the logo. They didn’t have a name at that point, but with historically it being a union friendly bar, we finally settled on Local 42,” remembered David.
Fast forward to March this year, when David, who had been traveling, reached out to see what was going on with the project. “Hey, whatever happened with that bar?” he asked. “We had some delays. Structural issues. Then a flood in the building,” said Stephane.
They reconnected and David headed to 9th Avenue to look at the space. “I came inside and it was just the bar. It was rough. They held onto the bar, sanded it down, but it was just nothing. Yeah, it’s kind of a blank canvas,” recalled David.
David brought his graphic art and set design skills to the project and got to work in Photoshop — exchanging ideas based on his love of vintage posters and the artifacts that Stephane had saved from Dave’s Tavern.
“So I just started to Photoshop what might be fun. That door got some kind of graffiti and I put some beams up above the bar. And then you got these places to sit, some art on the walls and a ghost sign in the bricks,” said David. Everywhere you look, there are features, from tiny figures to 70s ad posters.
“And then Twins closed, just down 9th Avenue,” added Stephane. “So I went to Twins, and I got their foot rail, some of the bar stools, a blackboard and the three booths back here. I reclaimed them from Twins because they were demolishing the building. We stored them at the back of Steak Frites before bringing them here.” Twins Irish pub closed on New Year’s Eve 2022 after 52 years on 9th Avenue between W33rd and W34th St.
All around the bar there are hat tips to the history of the neighborhood and union workers. Above the bar, the beams hold a collection of hard harts — as well as the legs of workers reading newspapers high above the city in the mode of the iconic Empire State Building construction workers photo, Lunch atop a Skyscraper. “I worked on The Marvelous Mrs Maisel TV show. When I was on the show, I saved a lot of stuff. That’s where these cool newspapers from the sixties came from. So those are The Daily News covers from the sixties,” said David.
The graffiti of the bridges on W39th Street feature on shelf tables along the wall. And even the light fittings around the bar look like construction workers’ jar bottles filled with screws. David only had “blurry pictures from Yelp” to work from to recreate some of the atmosphere of Dave’s Tavern — but the walls are also filled with panels full of stickers that Stephane saved during the renovation. “This is a mixture of old and new, and other dive bars, and union stickers that are hard to find — and it’s priceless, in my opinion,” said David.
The design job has been a savior for David, whose work has been in short supply during the writer and actor strikes this year. The SAG-AFTRA President Fran Drescher manages a guest appearance amid the memorabilia with an early photo mixed in next to one of the booths.
There’s a corner of photos paying tribute to those neighbors who have passed. “There’s Bobby, who used to be a boxer and then a bouncer at the Holland Bar and finally at Dave’s. His real name was Conrad Tooker, and he died in October last year,” said Stephane. “There’s Danny Vitale, who was a comedian and a rising star on SNL in the eighties. A character from Manhattan Plaza. A good friend that I would just see on the benches on W43rd Street and talk to all the time. And he just died last year with no family, nobody. So I figured I’d do something for him.”
The corner also pays tribute to Emile Griffith, a boxer who accidentally killed his opponent at Madison Square Garden and ended up a bouncer in Hell’s Kitchen. Stephane also added in a picture of his father. “My dad passed away 15 years ago. I’ve put up a photo of him as a baseball player in Montreal in 1953,” he said.
The latest watering hole to pop up in Hell’s Kitchen has a clear culinary message: no-nonsense food that’s better than it needs to be. Adam Schop, chef and co-owner, puts it simply: “It’s absolutely a no frills bar food.” But don’t let that fool you. The dishes coming out of Schop’s kitchen, from the “solid hamburger” to the “solid plate of fries,” are “value” according to the chef — giving people the satisfaction of leaving with a few bucks still in their wallet.
Adam knows a thing or two about the restaurant scene in the neighborhood, with a legacy of successful neighborhood establishments like Steak Frites, Zillions Pizza and Lovely’s Old Fashioned under his belt (as well as Miss Lily’s in the East Village). At Local 42, there are no shortcuts to maintaining the reputation that came from such triumphs: “We come as we are and we work hard,” Schop says. This commitment is perhaps best embodied in the South American favorite ‘Saachi Papas’ that Local 42 has popularized — a guilty pleasure of seared hot dogs and french fries, served with a duo of sauces, promising to be “everything you want after a couple of beers.” And as for the beers? Local 42 keeps it merry with an ‘all-day happy hour,’ offering drinks at prices that are “as generous as many of the other local bars during their happy hours” — but at Local 42, Adam and Stephane promise those prices are a staple “all day, every day.”
Local 42 may be the new dive bar on 9th Avenue, but it stands on the shoulders of neighborhood giants — like the now-shuttered Holland Bar and, of course, Rudy’s. “I have to admit, I’ve been going to Rudy’s for 30 years,” said Stephane. “Rudy’s has been very friendly about opening this because the owner of Rudy’s, Jack Ertl, used to own 11 bars in the neighborhood. So when COVID hit and this was available, Jack told me that you ‘can’t go wrong with a bar in Hell’s Kitchen’.” Stephane was quick to stress: “So we’re not competing with Rudy’s. There’s enough for everybody.”
Stephane and Adam are proud of the work they are putting in to revitalize Hell’s Kitchen — and particularly this block beneath the old Elk Hotel stretching along W42nd Street and 9th Avenue. “Apparently back in the day, the seventies and eighties, the New York Times writers used to come here and hang out. That was before Dave’s, before it was ‘Why Not?’” said Stephane. “Now the deli next door went 24 hours. Next to them, there’s a coffee shop opening in a couple of months. So there’s only one empty space left. We have Olde City and on the corner, Istanbul Bay Express, and then we have Zillions and then two cannabis shops. So we are cleaning it up by being open. The hotel opens soon with 15 apartments. That should be in the next four or five months.”
Local 42 is at 574 9th Ave (between W41st and W42nd Street). The dive bar is currently open from 12 noon to 3am. You can follow them on Instagram at @local_42_bar