photography / documentary: chinatown baby boomers: Final week at Winnie's bar

This spring, Winnie Mui closed down her eponymous Chinatown establishment after 28 years, the latest casualty of the area’s gentrification. Long time friends and customers came to visit from as far as London and Paris to celebrate one last time. “Of course I’m sad. I’m sad. We sang together, and burst into tears. I will remember all my customers, because they are sincerely loving.” Those customers included a generation of neighborhood regulars who had come of age hanging out at Winnie’s and formed an extended family there – to them, the loss didn’t signify just the disappearing of yet another much mourned piece of New York authenticity, but of their sanctuary. A former Cantonese Opera performer, Winnie moved to NYC in the 1960s. The way she tells the story, she loved to drink and socialize, but never considered opening up her own place until a couple of her {quote}younger sisters{quote} suggested it because they were looking for a job: “After they asked me, I thought, ‘I could try.’” In recent years, a dive bar vibe and vintage karaoke machine attracted non-Chinese crowds, and it is a testament to Winnie’s personality and skill that she was able to navigate and bridge different worlds, creating a space where everybody felt at home – the 1990s street gang crew and the people from the courts and the D.A.’s office, the local latchkey kid and the NY fashionistas, the retired cops and the old timers and the gentrifiers…
Final week at Winnie's bar

This spring, Winnie Mui closed down her eponymous Chinatown establishment after 28 years, the latest casualty of the area’s gentrification. Long time friends and customers came to visit from as far as London and Paris to celebrate one last time. “Of course I’m sad. I’m sad. We sang together, and burst into tears. I will remember all my customers, because they are sincerely loving.” Those customers included a generation of neighborhood regulars who had come of age hanging out at Winnie’s and formed an extended family there – to them, the loss didn’t signify just the disappearing of yet another much mourned piece of New York authenticity, but of their sanctuary.  

A former Cantonese Opera performer, Winnie moved to NYC in the 1960s. The way she tells the story, she loved to drink and socialize, but never considered opening up her own place until a couple of her "younger sisters" suggested it because they were looking for a job: “After they asked me, I thought, ‘I could try.’” In recent years, a dive bar vibe and vintage karaoke machine attracted non-Chinese crowds, and it is a testament to Winnie’s personality and skill that she was able to navigate and bridge different worlds, creating a space where everybody felt at home – the 1990s street gang crew and the people from the courts and the D.A.’s office, the local latchkey kid and the NY fashionistas, the retired cops and the old timers and the gentrifiers…