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.

I deal here with beer, food, and spirits, their characteristics in time and space. Hence their make-up, taste, price, typical demographic, etc.

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

Yet I discuss the U.N. below because I learned it has a bar in 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 alongside, 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” was commissioned to do the design and renovation.

I think they did a nice job. The pastel scheme is effective, it reminds me of university conference rooms in the 1970s but updated with ‘all mod cons’. Maybe a retro look was intended.

The 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 a component of a larger revamp of the 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 its “scene” a few years ago. Another profile appeared 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 New York. Evidently the bar now offers a large selection of beer, wine, and other drinks. So far I haven’t succeeded in putting my hands on the full menu, but will keep trying.

The Lounge has a “Beer of the Month” program, which is all to the good. It chose Bira91 IPA from India a couple of years ago, as nicely reported 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 in Britain.

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

A lot has changed in the drinks scene since 1958, but some things haven’t changed. Gin was popular among delegates then, not so much martinis – too strong, said the article – but G&T and other mixes. Gin is still popular today of course (more than ever), presumably at 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. in 1958, 10 years after it began operations in New York.

Evidently the U.K. delegation was satisfied with gin, the then-popular whisky and soda, and other nations’ beer. One can detect British diffidence here for its beery heritage, matters have not improved since.

American diplomat Henry Cabot Lodge liked 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 1958, the report states, was plain orange juice. In fact, O.J. is still a big draw there today as the more recent reports confirm.

Finally, the U.N. in New York has six working committees. There is no seventh, officially: the seventh is 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 food and drink policy. Legislation on appellations of origin is an example.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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