Roasting Alvin Ross: Retiring Restaurateur Takes a Little Flack

The Hill Rag. September 20014

It's hot enough to grill a burger on the sidewalk this mid-week, mid-afternoon in August. 

By moonrise the sidewalk cafe at Mr. Henry's will fill with burgers and fries and nachos, beers and margaritas. Right now the patio is abandoned, but inside the restaurant is as it always is, cool and dark, denying the hour. Any hour. Any year. 

A spiffily-suited quartet appears to be negotiating Something Very Important at a center table. A few regulars inhabit the bar, but the curmudgeonly cloud that normally hovers, always ready with a sarcastic remark and a hemorrhoidally-fueled smile, is missing. Alvin Ross, the mug of Mr. Henry's for over four decades, has retired. 

Alvin has been at the pub since 1971, when local property baron, Larry Quillian, won the place in a poker game from Henry Yaffe, the pint-sized, peripatetic entrepreneur who ensconced songstress Roberta Flack in a room of her own on the second floor. 

At the time, Yaffe owned six bars around town, operating under different names, but with the same stylistic formula of red-checked tablecloths and hodge-podge of Victoriana hung over flaking plaster walls.