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Once a popular sports bar, the former New York Beer Company is about to take a trip back in time. Expect 1970s NYC disco glamour, comfort food and cocktails at Peachy Keen, opening next week on W44th Street between 8/9th Avenue.
Menu items will range from elevated takes on comforting classics like bananas foster Belgian waffles, chicken and biscuits, and truffle mac and cheese, house-made ice cream floats, milkshakes, and sundaes, plus a 70s-inspired beverage program featuring frozen disco drinks and cocktails-of-the-decade like the Amaretto Sour.
Peachy Keen partners Tony Doyle, Brian Connell, and Patrick Schmidt of Hell’s Kitchen Hospitality spoke to W42ST about the ethos behind their largest project to date. The team took inspiration from their other Hell’s Kitchen properties — including local favorites Mom’s Kitchen & Bar and Dolly Varden — as a template for how to pitch high-quality, thoughtfully designed food and drink as approachable to visitors and locals alike.
“We have a lot of success with comfort food at Mom’s — it’s very approachable. I think that’s a big word for us in the business right now — being approachable, especially here in Midtown,” said Schmidt. “Because there are so many different types of people and comfort food is familiar — it can be loud and bold and colorful and tie in with our concept and the design.”
“We’ve tried to return our places to be more food-forward and more family-friendly and I think you see a lot of that here,” added Connell. “We’re geared up as much for families and tourists as we are for the dinner and cocktail business. And for that late-night bar business, we’re out of it — we’re happy to be out.”
But why the step back in time? “We noticed a trend revival of the seventies,” said Schmidt. “The Pebble Bar in Rockefeller Plaza has a very seventies perspective, and even what they’re doing in the skating rinks around Wollman Rink in Central Park. We lucked into it that our brand decision-making was parallel with what other people were doing. We’ve tried to align ourselves with a narrative of the seventies being back in Midtown, because we feel like it’s just organically happening.”
Peachy Keen is a massive space previously designed as a classic craft beer and sports pub and this inspired the team to envision a quirky, cheery, discotheque parlor that marries the best of nostalgic diner culture with a groovy, high-end cocktail bar. Brightly painted murals by artist Sean Maze and interior design by Wid Chapman Architects create an atmosphere where customers can feel just as at home grabbing a morning coffee or pastry as they would an indulgent brunch or cocktails under a disco ball.
Said Schmidt: “The whole idea of the front space is to be a little bit more of a cafe vibe, where we’ll serve coffees and breakfast in the daytime, transition into lunch and dinner, and then in the evening it’ll transition into more of a dessert bar where we’ll do soft serve ice creams, pastries, and cocktails.”
“When we were workshopping ideas, we originally started with more of a fifties-diner-vibe, with the parlor idea and a vintage soda pop fountain,” he added. “As the project developed and we started working with the designer and saw the space come to life and developed the menus, we felt a later time period was influencing a lot of our decisions — the bright colors, the shapes started to take on more of a late-sixties, early-seventies vibe.” The space is split into imaginatively named zones — The Snug, Flower Pad, Lava Lounge, The Parlour, Sunset Set Corral and Banquette Row.
All three agreed that much had changed in the New York hospitality scene since they opened New York Beer Company in 2012. “New York Beer Company, it’s in the name, it was a beer bar,” said Connell. “We felt the craft beer thing had lost its sparkle, so we decided to bring the space back to a new life.”
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Schmidt noted that “some of that decision was made for us by the customer and the invention of and the explosion of social media use — the power of imagery and living your life online.”
“Even the really interesting and cool beer doesn’t look as fun on social media — Bud Light and a really cool IPA kind of look the same in the glass,” he laughed.
At Peachy Keen, “the cocktails and food specifically allow us to tell a story that fits the brand and then present better through imagery online with things like colors, glasses, plates, over the top presentations — It’s more fun,” added Schmidt. “That’s why I think, even the places that we didn’t rebrand to reopen, we’ve shifted towards focusing more on things like cocktails and food, because that’s where the narrative is.”
Doyle agreed that customer behavior has changed — the power of ambiance and social media has shifted what diners are looking for in an eatery space. “With social media and the use of electronics, viewing sports has changed. When we first opened here Sunday was a big, big deal — every TV had its game, and we were full by Sunday at 11 o’clock in the morning — but the bar business and the craft beer business have changed over time,” he said. “You can look at sports on your phone right now. And people are okay with that. We’re okay with it.”
Doyle and Connell, in business together since the opening of their first bar in 1998 and who brought Schmidt on board in 2009, are aware that complacency is the death of creativity in the culinary business.
“We’ve always had the attitude that our business changes every five years. We’ve never been afraid to change,” said Doyle. They credit the feedback and support of the Hell’s Kitchen community as part of their success, with the neighborhood’s passionate clients keeping them committed to evolving.
“We’ve been doing what we do for so long in this neighborhood,” said Connell. “We have a good rapport with the block associations and with the community board, and when we show up for a meeting they’re like, ‘Yeah, these guys are good.’ And that goes a long way in communities.”
“The community always grows,” added Schmidt of the group’s loyal customers. “We see a lot of the same faces pretty regularly at our locations here and in Astoria. I think that there was a time earlier on in COVID where so many restaurants were closed, and the fact that we stayed open and were still able to offer something for the community was powerful.
“Even in Midtown Manhattan, that’s a restaurant’s sole purpose — to provide a service for the community, no matter how big or small that community is,” he added. “I think during that period we were able to capture a lot of eyeballs and retain them through good quality products and good services.”
Doyle agreed. “The community was a big part of our survival and the same will hopefully happen here. We’re very lucky to be at the crossroads of the world — there’s every type of person from all over the world, all over New York, all over the country and we’re hoping to get as many of them as possible.”
One crowd that the team hopes to welcome back into the space is the Broadway community. New York Beer Company was once the home of Tony Award parties, Broadway and tour company meetups, and special theatrical events. “Year after year, we always had a buyout for the Tony’s and would have launch parties and different gatherings throughout the year,” said Schmidt. “I hope that we will still be able to host those types of events in the future — maybe even more now, as Peachy Keen is a little more vibrant and fun for that crowd.”
Looking ahead, in addition to welcoming back Broadway, West Siders, and visitors alike to a new and groovy space, the team at Peachy Keen always has one eye on the future of dining.
“We’re always willing to change,” said Doyle. “Whatever five years bring us, we’ll see where we are and if we need to change it, we will.” Their prediction for the next wave in hospitality? “I think the dispensaries are definitely the next frontier,” said Doyle. Referencing the brand’s focus on presentation and pairing, Schmidt added, “Potentially in time, we’ll focus on what pairs and complements better with whatever the trend of dispensaries offers.”
Whatever the future brings, the team at Peachy Keen is confident that listening to their clientele, evolving with the times, and bringing a bit of 70s nostalgia into the future will keep them firmly a part of the Hell’s Kitchen landscape. Said Schmidt: “We’ll be here, along for the ride.”
Peachy Keen is at 321 W44th Street New York, NY 10036 (between 8/9th Avenue). peachykeen.com
Hopefully this place isn’t as overpriced as New York Beer Company was. Good luck to Peachy Keen! Fingers crossed this also brings more traffic to the area and gets rid of the riff raff on that street.
Amen to that! Can we get the scaffolding taken down ever?
Patrick, Tony and Brian are praying for that too, Tyrone!!
Is it to much to ask the writers to put the address and opening date in the article?
I am a local resident and frequent diner. It’s annoying that I have to search for “New York Beer Company” to find the address is 321 West 44th street.
Good point. We have added that to the footer of the story. Thx. Phil
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