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Melrose Umbrella Co., the much-anticipated neighborhood bar on Melrose Avenue, finally welcomed its first guests last week. Launched by bartenders Austin Melrose (Bagatelle), Zach Patterson (Bagatelle) and Ian Shepp (Key Club), it’s the city’s first post-prohibition-themed bar.

Speaking of history, it’s been said that the family you’re born into shapes your fate. For Austin Melrose and the opening of his first bar, this rings eerily true.

Rainy Days are Here to Stay.

The umbrella aspect of the bar’s name refers to a clever post-prohibition symbol. During that time, storefronts would display a drawing of an umbrella with raindrops — celebrating the end of the ‘dry’ era, with many ‘wet’ days to come — signified alcohol was served once again.

In search of a unique logo, Melrose unearthed a family album his grandfather gave him when he graduated high school. Lo and behold, he discovered photo after photo of his great-great-great grandfather, James Melrose, not sporting a cane — as was the fashion of the day — but ironically, an umbrella. 

The fates had spoken. The silhouette of his ancestor carrying an umbrella became the bar’s logo. James Melrose is there in spirit, as well, watching over the bar from a stoic black-and-white portrait hung near the fireplace.

"It gave me chills when I saw that he had an umbrella in every photo,” says Melrose, “like a sign that opening the bar was the right thing to do.” 

And yes, that really is his name, adding to the strange coincidences surrounding the bar. 

Playing on the post-prohibition theme, designer Matt Winter of M. Winter Design pulled together early 20th century elements, like the ornate apothecary as the back bar, New York City subway tile on the walls, and Art Deco chandeliers.

And, of course, umbrellas are central. Thirteen vintage umbrellas, signifying the 13 years of prohibition from 1920 to 1933, line the wall.

 

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Dani Goodman