With the city’s constant churn of night-life offerings, it’s not uncommon for hoteliers and bar owners to hark back to New York’s rich cultural past for inspiration. Few newcomers enjoy as many points of reference as Gibson & Luce, a subterranean cocktail bar that opened in January beneath the Life Hotel, once the headquarters of Life magazine.
Credit Nina Westervelt for The New York Times
Named after Charles Dana Gibson, the magazine’s former editor, and Henry Luce, its former publisher, the bar pays tribute to the glory days of the famed photojournalistic periodical, in a space where Norman Rockwell and editors once lounged. While the bar does a commendable job of evoking the past, it feels more like an after-work or pre-dinner spot, rather than somewhere one would seek out.
The bar is on a dingy stretch of West 31st Street, lined with hole-in-the-wall shops selling discount jewelry, body oils and janky phone accessories. Inside, a marble bar fronts a dimly lit lounge that suggests a midcentury gentlemen’s club, replete with blue banquettes, brass picture lights and wood paneling. Still, the illusion seems somewhat incomplete at times. “With such rich history, you want them to commit more to that in the design,” said one patron, pointing to an empty wall. “You want them to make that history feel more tangible.”