Known for the secret wine cellar and ornamental jockey figurines, '21' is one of the most celebrated establishments in New York City, and is considered an American icon. In addition to the restaurants, the Bar Room and 'Upstairs', this four-story townhouse features ten private party rooms including the legendary Prohibition-era Wine Cellar. It opened in 1930, and was designed with its own disappearing bar and a secret wine cellar to hide the illegal liquor from prying eyes, it’s a place where celebrities and captains of industry have wined and dined for more than 80 years. Standing guard on the balcony above the entrance to '21' is a group of ornamental jockeys, all donated by some of the best-known stables in American thoroughbred racing. Sportsman, entrepreneur and long-time patron, Jay van Urk, presented '21' with its first jockey in the early 1930s and his quirky ‘present’ soon caught on with similar donations from the prominent families like the Vanderbilt, Mellon and Ogden Mills Phipps families. The wrought-iron gate outside '21' is as much a part of the fabric of this New York establishment as the secret wine cellar and the celebrity clientele.
The gate itself actually dates back to 1926 when Jack Kriendler and Charlie Berns moved their Club Fronton from 88 Washington Place to 42 West 49th Street. The new bar was called The Puncheon (and a host of other names to confuse federal tax men!). But no sooner had the doors opened than they received notice that the Rockefeller Center was going to be built on the site, so Jack and Charlie received $11,000 from the landowner to vacate. On January 1, 1930, with the help of a few patrons, they unhinged the gate from the doorway of No. 42 and installed it three blocks north at 21 West 52nd Street. '21' was officially opened. (Information from 21 website).