For a bar named Veloce, they sure have taken their own sweet time reopening. But good things are worth waiting for, and owner Frederick Twomey has taken the precious time off afforded by this ongoing pandemic to focus on his priorities, and renovate the Bar Veloce empire into an even better version of its previously excellent self.
Like most of Manhattan, Bar Veloce Chelsea closed on the ominous Ides of March, 2020, along with its sister locations. They have been out of operation since then, and some will remain forever shuttered, victims of the pandemic. But lucky for us, out of the seven original locations, Chelsea’s own will heroically reopen, along with the original in the East Village, three additional Manhattan addresses in the East Village, Columbus Circle, and Soho, and a brand new iteration that has yet to see light of day in Narrowsberg, NY, a bucolic town about two hours north of the city.
Twomey founded the original Bar Veloce in March 2000, so the COVID-motivated closing stultified any glorious twentieth anniversary celebrations. The original idea for the bar was inspired by a European motorcycle trip Twomey took in his heyday, where he and a companion found respite in small local bars, for quick pit-stop type refortification. They chose destinations where they could refuel with regional specialties while being able to keep an eye on their bikes parked outside. He modeled the Veloces after those idyllic locales, keeping a Mediterranean aesthetic of rakish refinement, bella figura, if you will, without being stuffy or uptight.
But twenty years after the first Veloce opened, all of them shut down. Twomey’s decision to close all locations was multi-fold, but first and foremost, his priority was the safety of his staff. “It didn’t feel right to open, even in some weird edification,” he explains. “My job is to bring people together,” which is exactly the wrong thing to be doing during a pandemic caused by a virus that thrives by people doing exactly that.
He realized the costs of remaining closed, and the difficulties it would present to his employees, but at the same time he had the ability to step back and look at the greater dangers of the bigger picture. Also, and not unimportantly, Twomey is very aware of how things are perceived, and he didn’t want to be sending the wrong message. Erring on the side of caution seemed the smartest and most responsible course of action. His bars have always been an embodiment of his ideals, and while they may not be for everyone, he’s okay with that.
In fact, in the current tidal wave of inclusivity, diversity and acceptance, Twomey is preferring to hone his audience to a more intimate and sensual aesthetic. He originally aspired, like most, to an “everyman” kind of appeal, but during the pandemic he felt that too many places were casual-ified, dumbing down to relieve the stressors of the pandemic. But at this point, he notices more a lack of decorum, a casual-Friday lassitude that is infiltrating all the rest of the days of the week.
So he’s sharpening his focus, polishing up the surfaces and raising the figurative bar, based on the perceived needs of his clientele. Somewhere to go with a little ritz, a hint of glamour, where you can gussy up like a grown up but with a breezy European ease. He intends for it to offer a touch of exclusivity - but one that is based on nothing more than whether you want to be there or not.
To that end, the Veloces upon their reopening will be reservation-only. This has not only to do with maintaining an element of opulence, but also the need to maintain crowd-control. Too many bodies in close quarters is not a good look right now, so it will ensure a civil amount of elbow room between patrons. His clients’ comfort, safety and satisfaction are his utmost concern, and all CDC guidelines, as they unfold, will be strictly adhered and adapted to as the situation evolves.
The situation is still somewhat in a state of flux, and while summer is winding down, the bars are still not quite ready to open instantaneously. He estimates welcoming everyone back in a week or two, pending renovation snags and any unforeseen hiccups. Twomey is orchestrating a grand debut,, where all his bars will reopen in poetic synchronicity. He’s hoping for a bit of a “ta-da” moment, akin to when the power comes back on after a harrowing, extended blackout. Because we all know the lights have been off for far too long.
“My job is to bring people together.” Bar Veloce owner Frederick Twomey