Founded just over a century ago in 2011, Harry’s New York Bar at 5, Rue Daunou is a little piece of Manhattan, in the middle of Paris – literally. The bar was acquired by former American jockey Tod Sloan in 1911 who converted it from a bistro and renamed it the "New York Bar.”
Sloan had the idea after becoming frustrated by his difficulty in finding proper cocktails in Paris. Sloan had gone into partnership with a New Yorker named Clancy who owned a bar in Manhattan. Clancy’s bar in the Big Apple was dismantled piece by piece and shipped to Paris where it was transmogrified into the New York Bar on the site of the former bistro.
Sloan then hired Harry MacElhone, a barman from Dundee in Scotland to run the new establishment but although the bar became popular in the years before the First World War, when Paris was starting to attract American tourists, financial problems coupled with a lavish lifestyle forced Sloan to sell in 1923. That year the bar was acquired by the former barman Harry MacElhone and thus Harry’s New York Bar (in Paris)
was born. For 89 years, Harry’s Bar has remained in the ownership of the MacElhone family.
Harry’s Bar became a favourite haunt of artists and the literati. Its customers are said to have included authors Ernest Hemingway, F. Scott Fitzgerald and actors Clint Eastwood and Humphrey Bogart. The Duke of Windsor (who was to abdicate from the British Crown as Edward VIII) is even reputed to have dropped by from time to time.
A number of famous cocktails are credited with having originated at Harry’s Bar, the most celebrated being a Bloody Mary concocted from vodka, tomato juice and spices and said to date from 1921.
In 2012, customers at this little piece of Manhattan can ask bartenders to mix a politically neutral range of tipples such as an “Obama,” a”Romney," a "Biden" (an old whiskey with vanilla) or a "Ryan” reports The Local
In 1924, the year after Harry MacElhone took over Harry’s Bar, it ran its first US Presidential poll and it has been conducting its unique method of testing the voting intentions of Americans in Paris in every US Presidential election since.
"We are the most dependable opinion poll," said present owner Isabelle MacElhone, who took over the bar following the death of her husband Duncan in 1998, the grandson of "Harry", reports La Croix
In 88 years and almost 25 elections since 1924 the Harry’s Bar US Presidential poll been proved wrong on a mere two occasions: in 1976 it called Gerald Ford as the winner instead of Jimmy Carter and in 2004 it had John Kerry edging it ahead of George W. Bush.
For the 2012 US Presidential, polling at Harry’s Bar began in October. Strict guidelines govern polling and there are even voter ID requirements. Only American citizens are permitted to take part in polling and passports must be shown to eliminate any temptation to ‘Vote early and vote often.’ As in a real election, details of those who have voted are kept separate from the ballot itself to ensure there is no multiple voting.
"We ask Americans to show us their passports," said MacElhone, "Then they are given voting papers."
Ballot papers are kept in a locked box on the mahogany bar top of Harry’s Bar. Each week a tally is taken and the frontrunner is announced. At the latest count, with 298 votes cast, Obama, on 165 votes was ahead of Romney by 32 votes, with the Republican challenger polling 133 votes, reports L’Echo Republicain
. For psephologists, Obama was polling 55.3% and Romney 44.6%.
As for Harry’s Bar, it is strictly impartial, welcoming Democrats and Republicans alike. Said Isabelle MacElhone,
"We are the place where both Democrats and Republicans come for a drink. Everybody speaks to one another."
And how influential is the Harry’s Bar poll? Isabelle MacElhone is not in any doubt. Smiling, she said,
"I was told that the White House telephones Harry's Bar on the evening of the vote without saying who is calling to find out the state of play with polling. I haven’t been able to verify this, but that’s the way legend has it.”
is located at 5 Rue Daunou in Paris. Finding it, if you don’t speak French, is never a problem. Harry's trademark advertising slogan – "Just tell the taxi driver: Sank Roo Doe Noo" – has passed into folklore for English-speaking visitors to Paris.