The Seventh Committee (Part I)

The North Lounge, New York City

I don’t believe I’ve mentioned the United Nations before in this blog.

The subjects here deal with beer, food, and spirits, their characteristics in time and space. So, the make-up, taste, price, demographic, etc.

So how could that relate to an organization of world states, now almost 200 members? Its goals are to prevent conflict among States and foster goodwill or at least co-existence, say through cultural exchanges. All to the good, but not directly connected to drink and food, or anything that seems close really.*

Nonetheless, I deal with the U.N. below because I learned it has a bar New York, the North Delegates’ Lounge. It’s the watering hole and social centre of the U.N., reserved for delegates and their staff, the Secretariat staff, U.N.-accredited media, and their guests.

I’ve passed by the U.N. many times in New York. I’ve never been inside, and tended to gaze simply at the striking tall tower completed in 1952, the Secretariat. There is also the low, pavilion-like structure next to it, the General Assembly.

Between them further back though, facing the East River, is the Social and Economic Conference Centre of the U.N. On the second story on the north side is the Lounge. The Delegates Dining Hall, which is partly open to the public (in normal times), is on the fourth floor.

A few years ago the North Lounge underwent a significant remodelling and update. This article explains the background, by Jordan Kushins in Gizmodo (2013). A Dutch “dream team” as dubbed at the time was commissioned to do the design and renovation.

I thought they did a nice job. The use of pastels is effective; it reminds me of university conference rooms in the 1970s (retro?) but updated with ‘all mod cons’ especially for information technology.

This work was undertaken by the Netherlands at its expense, and on completion was presented to the U.N. – in effect to the world – as a gift of the Dutch people. It was part of a larger revamp of U.N. facilities in New York. Different countries assumed responsibility for different components of the work.

Below is how the North Lounge looked in 1952 (UN Photo, Walter Ethelbach).

 

 

Winston Aldworth, a New Zealand journalist, profiled the renovated bar and “scene” a few years ago. Another profile appears in a 2016 article by A.M. Brune in Atlas Obscura.

Aldworth mentions a few craft beers, and Brune mentions an ESB (extra-special bitter) from Rockaway Brewery in the New York area. Evidently the current bar offers a large selection of beer, wines, and other drinks. So far we haven’t succeeded in putting our hands on the full list, but will keep trying!

The Lounge has publicized its “Beer of the Month” program, which is all to the good. The Lounge chose Bira91 IPA from India as a selection a couple of years ago, as reported well at the NDTV site.

The North Lounge in 1958

Historical perspective is gained by reading a detailed 1958 news story on the Lounge. It appeared, of all places, in the Iraq Times, but clearly originated elsewhere, probably Britain.

The writer called the Lounge “the world’s only unlicensed bar”.

A lot has changed for the drinks since 1958, but some things haven’t. Gin was popular among delegates, not so much martinis (too strong, said the article) but G&T and other mixes. Gin is popular everywhere today, presumably in the North Lounge too.

Beer was a stand-by in 1958, and still is. Oddly to my mind, Britain had no beer at the U.N. bar in 1958, 10 years after the U.N. began operations in New York.

Evidently the U.K. delegation was satisfied with gin, whisky and soda (a classic mid-20th century drink), and beer from other nations. (It does suggest though, along with other evidence, British diffidence for its great beery heritage).

The American diplomat Henry Cabot Lodge liked a sherry. Russian diplomats at the time weren’t able to get Russian vodka in New York. American-made vodka was available but the Soviets rejected it as “Connecticut gin”. Now that one, I can’t figure out, I mean the Connecticut part.

The main tipple at the U.N. in ’58 was plain orange juice. In fact, O.J. is still a big draw at the U.N. as recent profiles of the Lounge confirm.

Finally: The U.N. in New York has six working committees. There is no seventh, officially: it’s the name U.N. staffers give the North Lounge!

Note re image: the image above was sourced from the United Nations website identified and linked in the text. All intellectual property therein belongs solely to the lawful owner. Used for educational and research purposes. All feedback welcomed.

Our look at the Lounge continues, in Part II.

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*In contrast, the European Union, say, can and does influence many aspects of food and drink policy. Legislation on appellations of origin is an example.