Down the Rabbit Hole: 124 Rabbit Club

Down the Rabbit Hole: 124 Rabbit Club

11947606_10101476799109936_445427103230405796_nIn Greenwich Village, just south of Washington Square Park, there is a pocket of commercial establishments on MacDougal Street where a number of college bars like Off the Wagon and The Grisly Pear have neon signs promoting the venues. The bars and restaurants on MacDougal can be kitsch—catering to college students will do that. Nevertheless, there are some hidden gems like 124 Rabbit Club.

Next to the corner of West 3rd Street and MacDougal, a dark stairway leads to an unmarked cellar. Near the cellar’s door, a gothic painting of a rabbit sinisterly greets patrons. The door to 124 Rabbit Club is always locked from the outside. To gain entrance, patrons have to ring the buzzer.

Inside, the dimly lit bar looks like a tomb. Broken beer bottles act as candleholders and old chandeliers drip from the ceiling, neither producing much light. Unfinished walls marked with linear streaks of chalk enclose the dingy, narrow refuge. Behind the bar, statues of angels and skeletons protect the alcohol. Closer to the entrance, another crude painting of a rabbit rests on the wall.

The name of the bar is an ode to the old rabbit clubs of late-19th century Manhattan. Specifically, the owner of 124 Rabbit Club, Drew Bushong, was inspired by the legendary bar, The Black Rabbit, which was shutdown in 1900 due to a penchant for crime and general depravity. Bushong is also fascinated by rabbit iconography, which explains the rabbit paintings and drawings that clutter the bar.

Although the club resembles a speakeasy, with the hidden entrance and the gritty space, 124 Rabbit Club does not sell hard liquor. Instead, the bar offers a vast array of Belgian, Czech, and German brews, rendering 124 Rabbit Club an underground haven for beer connoisseurs.

The Sunday and Monday bartender of 124 Rabbit Club, Zachary Lipez of Brooklyn, is like a sommelier of beer. He insists 124 Rabbit Club has a prominent reputation when it comes to Belgian brew, attracting beer drinkers from all over the city. Lipez says the club usually serves a local crowd that ranges from ambitious bankers to bohemian artists.

The club draws locals like Craig Larson, 34, who makes a weekly pilgrimage from his Tribeca apartment to this subterranean tavern in Greenwich Village. As a banker himself, Larson prefers to avoid hectic crowds after a long day at work; hence his appreciation for the bar’s quiet atmosphere. Larson says most of his friends are familiar with 124 Rabbit Club and that it is not unusual for him to run into colleagues. At the same time, he says there is always a group or two at 124 Rabbit Club who look like they stumbled upon the bar by happenchance.

With the advent of mobile apps like Yelp, which simplify the way people discover bars and restaurants, the type of patrons that frequent 124 Rabbit Club has changed within the past few years. Caroline de Vera, 25, and Mary Ababat, 24, two tourists from California, found the bar through the Yelp app. They said that, according to Yelp, 124 Rabbit Club is the number one ranked bar on MacDougal Street, so they felt compelled to check it out. Despite knowing the address of the bar, they still had trouble finding the inconspicuous location.

Robby Taylor, 26, of Sydney, Australia, is taking the year off from work to travel North and South America. He has only been in New York City for a few days as of mid-October, but is already declaring 124 Rabbit Club as the coolest bar in the city. Taylor was at an Irish pub on the Upper East Side before a local recommended he make the trek to the Village. When his taxi dropped him off on MacDougal, he serendipitously saw the rabbit painting and thought it was worth exploring.

124 Rabbit Club is an unassuming bar hidden underneath the bright lights of MacDougal Street. It is a microcosm of Greenwich Village amidst the greater New York City. When bar hopping in the Village, one would be remiss if they did not take the dive down the rabbit hole.

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