In the 1910’s and 1920’s a unique type of watering hole opened in the Sheridan Square area. Called “Goofy Clubs,” these restaurant-bars literally invented the over-the-top thematic ambiance we now take for granted in both theme parks and hundreds of restaurants and bars. Located at 10 Sheridan Square and opened in 1917 by Don Dickerman (at left), the Pirate’s Den was the most famous Goofy Club. It was decorated like a pirate ship, including cannons bolted to the floor and theatrical waiters dressed as pirates brandishing real swords. Live caged parrots and screaming monkeys completed the fantasy. (Monkeys?? Try to get that past the NYC Health Department today!)
Not surprisingly, the Goofy Clubs flourished during Prohibition. At the Toby Club it was Halloween everyday, much like at the Slaughtered Lamb, with fake cobwebs and spiders, mounted skulls and spooky candles. At another club waiters dressed in prison stripes and served illicit booze to customers in private cells. At the Wigwam, yes, you guessed it, servers dressed as Native Americans and wore skimpy outfits with tom-tom accompaniment.
For better or for worse, Greenwich Village's Goofy Clubs got the thematic ball rolling about a hundred years ago.