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The Must Lands at Pershing Square

By Eric Richardson
Published: Tuesday, March 22, 2011, at 11:55PM
Coly Den Haan and Rachel Thomas Eric Richardson / blogdowntown

Coly Den Haan and Rachel Thomas stand on the 16th floor of the Pershing Square Building, one of two rooftop levels that will be part of Perch.

Eight months after the sudden closure of The Must, Coly Den Haan still gets a steady stream of emails eagerly asking when the wine bar will return to the Historic Core. "The support is amazing, but on some levels it's also depressing," she explained. "We're working so hard on it."

Finally, though, Den Haan and partner Rachel Thomas can give an answer: The Must will return this fall, two blocks west of the spot where it debuted in December of 2008.

Not only that, but the neighborhood wine bar will be joined by a slightly more upscale sibling in Perch, a rooftop lounge that the pair are working to open with Jeffrey Fish, owner of the Pershing Square Building at 5th and Hill.

Fish has been working on an ambitious renovation of the 1924 structure for five years now, and Perch will occupy two new floors that were added on top of the building's roof.

Den Haan and Thomas signed on to the project in November, and have been hard at work putting together the concept for the space, which features 360 degree views on both levels.

"It's so pretty that we don't want to screw with it too much," Den Haan said on Tuesday.

While the views will conjure up immediate comparisons to the rooftop bar at The Standard, Den Haan and Thomas are committed to making sure the space still keeps the neighborhood connection they built with The Must.

"Why can't we have a rooftop too?," asked Thomas.

The pair plan to open Perch in late May, just in time to take full advantage of summer weather.

The decor and menu—put together by chef Benjamin Udave—will be French, though with a simpler spin. "What we want to do up there is take French food and bastardize it the same way we did with taking white trash food for The Must and making it nice," Thomas explained.

Fourteen stories below, much of that same food will again be offered at The Must when it reopens in the fall. The look of the original space will carry over as well, though Den Haan and Thomas are working with architect Karin Liljegren of omgivning to add some new touches. The most noticeable of those will be a large, recessed patio on 5th Street, along with a private wine cellar and open kitchen that will look down on the familiar Must booths from a mezzanine level.

Den Haan and Thomas trust that The Must's regulars will follow them across Broadway, but are also excited for the chance to play a role in shaping a new corner.

"Spring Street has become really sort of congested," Thomas said. "We kind of like the fact that we're set apart."

The corner also puts them closer to many of the offices of the Financial District, and directly across the street from the Pershing Square subway station.

"The Must will be the first and last stop for people on the Metro," said Den Haan. "It'll be first thing you see and the last thing you see."

Down the road, the pair may also play a role in the development of the Pershing Square Building's large basement, which is zoned for a 7,000 square foot bar and lounge. For now, though, they're just glad to be working, and glad to finally have something to tell those emailers.

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