Wintour goes nuclear about restaurant on her doorstep

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The Independent US

You don't have to be invited to know that Anna Wintour's Manhattan townhouse, which backs on to an exclusive garden oasis in the heart of Greenwich Village, must be swish. Try to drop by next Wednesday and you will find Barack Obama among her guests at a $30,000-a-plate fundraising reception.

But Ms Wintour, 60, who has famously terrorised the fashion world since taking over American Vogue 22 years ago, is suddenly in fear for the value and sanctity of her address. The wraps are about to come off a new Jamaican restaurant nearby. She would very much prefer that they didn't.

Campaigns by neighbours to snuff out new bars and eateries at birth or, more often, to kill them when they are already noisily open, erupt in New York all the time. But only when they involve the likes of Ms Wintour, with her perennial pageboy hair cut and icy glare, do they give sport to the headline writers.

Last month, Ms Wintour strode into a meeting of her neighbourhood's community board to denounce the new joint, to be called Miss Lily's, the second floor of which would look over her precious gardens. "I am completely concerned," she intoned. "This is a unique historic neighbourhood."

In the other corner is Serge Becker. No small fry himself, at least in the Manhattan nightlife industry, and the principal backer of the proposed new restaurant, he is not exactly quivering. "Anna is the protector of community?" he fired back this week. "It's just the funniest thing I've ever heard."

Ms Wintour has her detractors. This month saw the launch by designer Leon Verres of a series of T-shirts with short expletives attached to "Vogue" and to her first name. (He doesn't seem to like it that she is so influential.) But her powers of persuasion won the night with the community board. She was backed up by her 24-year-old son, Charlie, who also came along.

Members voted overwhelmingly against the granting of an all-important alcohol licence by the New York Liquor Authority, the board's spokesman, Bob Gormley, confirmed yesterday. The Authority has not yet ruled, however, and may not for several more weeks. There is no telling which way it will lean. But "our vote is only advisory," Mr Gormley noted.

It is precisely because Mr Becker is big in Manhattan that Ms Wintour is fretful. He is co-founder of the still jumping Bowery Bar and is behind two other venues that have often been in the news: The Box, which themes itself on 1930s Berlin cabaret clubs with suitably risqué stage acts, and La Esquina, a Mexican restaurant with a fun-filled, hidden basement section.

Ms Wintour has clearly been briefed on the shenanigans that sometimes go on at The Box – though surely many of the celebrities who adore it are known to her also – and on the brushes with the authorities suffered by La Esquina. The city briefly closed the latter down in May for fire-related problems that allegedly put its patrons "at peril".

She surely also had in mind another locale, the Beatrice Inn. Situated on Waverly Place, also not far from her home, this reigned for a while as the in-place for a certain category of models and film starlets and the men eager to misbehave with them, until the wrath of its neighbours forced its demise last year. "I know the kind of places he's involved in and the kind of people that he brings," Ms Wintour said of Mr Becker at the board meeting before its vote.

Michael Musto, who has been a New York gossip columnist for as long as she has run Vogue, sees where she is coming from. "His types of clubs are not really Anna Wintour-type places," he writes in The Village Voice. "He's involved in The Box, and I certainly don't picture her sitting in the front row being splashed by a transsexual performer." (Such things do happen there.)

Still, not everyone will feel sympathy with Ms Wintour, whose is said to have been the inspiration for Meryl Streep's not-always-huggable character in The Devil Wears Prada. Fashion bloggers are united in suggesting that if she wants urban tranquillity, she shouldn't be living so close to commercially clogged Houston Street, where the new restaurant would be located, but in the more leafy Brooklyn.

They also wonder how she can be so down on one potentially jumping joint while saying nothing about other equally overpopulated venues close by, like the Minetta Tavern. Maybe because the British owner of the Minetta, Keith McNally, recently hailed her in New York Magazine as one of his rare AAA customers who will always get a seat. Mr Becker will surely never endow her with such status.

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