Behind the Whiskey Bar
Thirty brass draught beer taps line the bar top in the Whiskey Bar, pouring one of Seattle’s finest collections of beer, and showcasing many of the craft beers brewed locally.
LeRoy Neiman captured the spirit of the Whiskey Bar when he painted it on St. Patrick's Day, March 17th, 1979. The $100,000 original is now on display in the Whiskey Bar, along with numbered serigraphs of LeRoy’s other great bar scenes: P.J. Clarke’s, Toots Shor’s, The Pump Room, The “21” Club, and the Irish-American Bar.
LeRoy Neiman's Painting of F.X. McRory's Whiskey Bar
It started back in December 1978 when LeRoy Neiman came out to Seattle for the opening of Gallery Mack in Pioneer Square. LeRoy visited F.X. McRory's and was so impressed with the back bar display of over 600 bottles that he dubbed it "America's West Coast Bar." Owners Mick McHugh and Tim Firnstahl asked LeRoy to put their bar on canvas, his answer was "no, I'm too busy." The partners kept asking until LeRoy finally tried to put them off by asking for a commission of $100,000.00. Much to LeRoy Neiman's surprise, Mick and Tim agreed to pay it and asked the artist to paint the bar on St. Patrick's Day 1979. A scaffold was set up and Neiman spent the day sketching. At the end of the day he had roughed out a painting.
LeRoy Neiman returned to New York and put his sketches aside. Repeated calls from Seattle did no good, the work was not complete and the F.X. McRory's owners had promised their fans an unveiling on St. Patrick's Day 1980! LeRoy's agent told Mick and Tim that mere money would not motivate the artist to complete the work. The two Seattlites came up with a gimmick that they hoped would appeal to this renowned artist. At the time, gold was a very hot commodity. Mick and Tim decided to stop by Neiman's studio in New York City with a 64 oz. gold bar worth $25,000.00. They bought two kilos of gold bouillon at the government offices in Wilmington. The bar was marked as Russian gold, recently given to our president in exchange for US wheat.
The two Restaurateurs took Neiman by surprise. They knocked on the door at LeRoy's Central Park address with the gold bar carried by Pinkerton Security complete with a Doberman. They handed LeRoy the gold and said, "now will you finish our painting?" LeRoy confessed that one of the reasons for the delay was that the size of the F.X. McRory back bar was a challenge to get onto canvas. LeRoy's wife suggested that he create a collage to represent the 600+ bottles. Mick and Tim sent the artist labels representing the bar's entire inventory. On schedule, St. Patrick's Day 1980, LeRoy Neiman returned to F.X. McRory's Steak, Chop and Oyster house to unveil his masterpiece.
In 1988, President Reagan and Soviet President Gorbachev agreed to set up some joint ventures. One of them was an art show at the Tretiakov Gallery in Moscow. They chose LeRoy Neiman and asked him to bring 8 - 10 of his works. He selected the F.X. McRory's Whiskey Bar and asked Mick and Tim if he could "borrow" it for display in Russia. They agreed and brought it over in person. The painting currently hangs in the Whiskey Bar at F.X. McRory's in Seattle, Washington.
Lithographs for $50.00 are for sale at the restaurant, or order by phone (206) 623-4800.
|F.X. McRory’s Steak Chop & Oyster House
419 Occidental Avenue South | P.O. Box 4859, Seattle, Washington 98194 | (206) 623-4800