Central Filing Bar – New York, New York - Gastro Obscura

Manhattan, New York

Central Filing Bar

A hidden bar inside an ad agency has a deliberately misleading name, so employees can stay late under pretext of paperwork. 

Tucked away on the seventh floor of one of the largest advertising agencies in New York City is an exclusive members-only bar with a distinctly Mad Men feel. There’s a reason for the similarities: The show’s creator based his silver screen corporate world on BBDO, the agency.

The agency’s origins date back to 1891 when the Batten Company operated out of a single room. After a merger with Barton, Durstine, and Osborn in 1928, the newly-formed BBDO became influential in steering American consumer culture. With a client roster that included AT&T, Bacardi, and Pepsi, they created such memorable campaigns as Burger King’s “Have it your way” and Campbell Soup’s “Mmm mm good.”

Central Filing Bar, where employees of BBDO can wind down after work, was established in 1976. It was so beloved that when BBDO moved offices from Madison Avenue to its current location on Sixth Avenue, the original bar moved as well. The distinctive bar counter is a modified filing cabinet, as is the door marking the entrance to the secret watering hole. The decor is an inside joke: Legend has it that the gin-soaked midcentury modern admen of Madison Avenue would ring their wives to say they had to stay late at “central filing,” and then gather for a few after-hours rounds. 

In its current iteration, Central Filing’s best feature has to be their legendary red-vested bartender, Joe, who is always on staff and quick with a joke.

Know Before You Go

Only members are permitted to visit this private club, and patrons must pay for their orders with drink tickets (which can be purchased at the bar). For a $50 fee, BBDO staffers can join the club and bring guests, so either watch BBDO New York's "jobs" page or make friends with one of the employees. The bar is open Monday through Friday from 5:00 to 7:00 p.m. All bar offerings, from snacks to beverages, are from companies that are BBDO clients.

Community Discussion