Former 21 Club owner dies at 99

posted 2006-12-22 15:19:29 by mike



NEW YORK - Jerry Berns, the affable host to New York's rich and famous during a half-century connection with the celebrated 21 Club, died Thursday, restaurant officials said. He was 99.

NEW YORK - Jerry Berns, the affable host to New York's rich and famous during a half-century connection with the celebrated 21 Club, died Thursday, restaurant officials said. He was 99.



Berns or Mr. Jerry, as he was known was a familiar face at the club, warmly greeting guests, grinning, shaking hands and making certain that both friends and strangers were treated royally.



"He was a goodwill ambassador," said Bryan McGuire, general manager of the club. "Over the 50 years that he was associated with the 21, Jerry met more people than most people could meet in 10 lifetimes."



The 21 Club, in a four-story townhouse in midtown Manhattan, served as a glamorous speakeasy in the Prohibition era. Despite police raids, its owners were never caught operating an illegal bar because of an ingenious system of levers used to tip the shelves of the bar down a chute.



Berns left his job as a theater critic at the Cincinnati Enquirer in 1938 to join his older brother, Charlie Berns, and partner Jack Kriendler, who opened the club on New Year's Eve 1929.



Jerry Berns and Kriendler's cousin Pete Kriendler became co-owners of the club in 1970 after both co-founders died. Pete Kriendler died five years ago on the same date as Berns Dec. 21.



Every president since Franklin Roosevelt has dined at the 21. Authors John Steinbeck, Ernest Hemingway and Frank Sinatra had favorite tables there. Humphrey Bogart proposed to Lauren Bacall there.



Berns sold the club in 1985 for $21 million





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