Monday, September 12, 2011

Early word on the new-look Phoenix on East 13th Street

The Phoenix, the gay bar on East 13th Street, is under new ownership. We discussed that here. One of the owners told us that they intended to clean the place up a bit while still catering the the local gay and lesbian community. Earlier in the month, the new owners closed the bar for a few days for some revamping. Phoenix regular Lux Living stopped by the new-look bar and filed this report.


I went to the Phoenix Friday night for the first time since their new makeover and though the changes aren’t dramatic, it feels like the cast of "Trading Spaces" has been hard at work. Frank, not Hildi.

They took out the Galaga arcade machine and the jukebox — genius move taking control of the music away from the patrons. They painted the front of the bar a sky blue and plastered the walls with all of the clich├ęd and junky signs the Catskills has to offer. New tables include two milk jugs with a board on top (?) and an old-fashioned sewing machine (??). Gone are the peanut/candy machines and the ledges that held the HX magazines and postcards for gay-related events and such. On the plus side they refinished the floor so it no longer smells like vomit and beer and the pool table is still there.

I wasn’t there long enough to use the loo so I don’t know if they painted over the shark in the bathroom. If they did, I’d be bitter.

The bottom line is that one of the area’s last remaining gay bars has been transformed into a lesbian brunch fantasy that probably should have been left in Cherry Grove or possibly in the dorm room of the Sarah Lawrence fantasy from whence it came. Gone are the blood red walls and dark orange ambient lighting. Here to stay are the finest eBay deals on authentic set pieces from Ted Danson’s personal collection from "Cheers." If ever there were a Jersey Turnpike Bennigans patiently awaiting its passport to the Isle of Lesbos, the new Phoenix is undoubtedly it.

[The old bathroom shark, which may or may not still be here]

36 comments:

Anonymous said...

Sad.

I got too old to go to the Phoenix about 5 years ago, but seeing it turn into some dull yuppie joint just added another 10 years to these old bones.

Anonymous said...

I also used to go to the Phoenix on the regular about 5 years ago but stopped when all my favorite bartenders left, and I myself quit drinking.

One thing though, I don't understand Lux's comment "genius move taking control of the music away from the patrons." Phoenix was famous for its amazing jukebox back in the day. Is that no longer the case? (Also, no lesbians I know go for the Bennigan's Garage Sale look in decorating, so please cool it on the lady-bashing and just blame the one responsible for all the crap on the walls.)

In any event, this redesign is sad -- sewing machine?? It's even sadder when they got rid of the side room's penis decoupage table and inexplicably replaced them with those wobbly logs. I would have taken that penis table if I knew they were gonna ditch it! I loved that thing.

Anonymous said...

Wow, Lux Living has some stereotypical opinions about lesbians having certain taste when it comes to interior design. We're not all tasteless bores, just so you know. Widen your circle a bit and stop hatin' on the girls.

Anonymous said...

I am not down with insulting our lesbian sisters to make a point about the Phoenix. Lux Living owes the girls an apology and he ought to think about why he has such a negative opinion of lesbians. It isn't uncommon for people who feel discriminated against like to find someone they can think of as lesser than themselves. EV, did this bother you, too? It's not in the spirit on the East Village--at least the old East Village--to pick on any of us queers. We all deserve respect.

Anonymous said...

"Isle of Lesbos" not politically correct. The suburbanization is enraging though. This looks really cleaned up and about as un-New York as possible and even more un-EV.

I miss the old days when Meow Mix was around. Those girls were really rad! There were alot of butch lesbians around. They kind of looked a little bit like the crusties except clean, and were into piercings and tatoos. Now people like that can't afford to live here anymore. What a shame.

Lux Living said...

You guys are taking this post way too seriously. Anyone who has come to know my sense of humor for the past 5 years on the neighborhood blogs knows I am an equal opportunity offender. I rag on the twink boys and their purses, transients, frat boys and OMG girls in flip-flops and myself far more than any random lesbian joke I may have made.

I don't have a negative opinion of lesbians at all. In fact, I'm this far away from fathering a child with one. What I do have a negative opinion of is the conscious choice to homogenize my favorite local drinking spot. Why does this neighborhood bar have to be turned into some cozy, Catskills breakfast nook? There are fewer and fewer places in this city where gay men can go to be in each others company, throw back a few and talk with out milk jugs, sewing machines and pretty princess powder blue walls. And now, no music? They need to control that too?

Imagine how the patrons of Henrietta Hudson's would feel if new owners came in and redid the place with motorcycles, cars and Tom of Finland posters?

And if people are concerned with unflattering decorating stereotypes, take it up with the decorator! I had nothing to do with it.

Park Avenue Grinch said...

Tee-Hee…Time to lighten up! Anyone familiar with Lux’ humor will recognize the sarcasm. And anyone familiar with Lux know he is as anti-discriminatory as can be.

Keep in mind – he has not said anything anti-lesbian. And everyone seems to have gotten the gist of the “new vibe” at Phoenix. Let’s face facts, it DOES look as if someone’s spinster aunt (you know, the one who studied two years of architecture before moving in with the gym teacher) took over after a weekend at the Brimfield Flea Market. The esthetic is decidedly matronly and has little to do with anything most dudes are interested in an East Village gay bar. No harm done - but let’s call it what it is.

There has ALWAYS been room for everyone in this neighborhood. There has also always been room for honest critique. Minced words, PC two-stepping for the benefit of idealistic college kids with more books than experiences along with stoic propriety can stay in Murray Hill.

Anyone who truly understands the “spirit” of the East Village – yeah the old one – will get that.

Anonymous said...

i think the "genius move taking control of the music.." comment was snarky. i could be wrong. but i think that was sarcasam on luxxy's part.

Anonymous said...

Don't make rationalizations, Lux Living. Just be big enough to say you're sorry and learn from the experience. There is humor and then there is just being mean for no reason. This wasn't funny. It was nasty and unnecessary. You don't want to be that kind of person.

Anonymous said...

you are a prick. You think that the lezzies who hung out at the phoenix (and worked there/dj-ed there/hung out with their fag friends there) would ever set foot in henrietta hudsons? your assessment of nyc lesbians as people who would choose the decor for the "new" phoenix from a catskills flea market prove that you probably don't even know any. Oh wait, besides the one you're gonna turkey baste with.

Anonymous said...

Too bad that most of what is written here speaks to the notion that the Phoenix has morphed precisely because all of you stopped going there, say, five years ago, precisely when your mourning should have commenced. Who cares what the place looks like now? That shark disappeared a long while ago. Your 'getting older' (ie: obsolete) has contributed to the decline os such establishments as much if not more than any lesbian with poor taste. Move on.

Anonymous said...

"Imagine how the patrons of Henrietta Hudson's would feel if new owners came in and redid the place with motorcycles, cars and Tom of Finland posters?"

Gee, Lux, here I was thinking Phoenix was a queer bar, open to gay men, lesbians, trans people, everyone under the queer umbrella and their respectful, individual straight friends (no bachelorette parties).

Do you know that Gae hosted some of the most badass lesbians "of a certain age" every Saturday afternoon for years in the mid-late 2000s? Fabulous ladies who have been here a lot longer than any of us, one who personally helped me understand tenants' rights when predatory equity came to town? Or were you just one of those mean jerks who looked at me in disgust for daring, as a woman, to use the Phoenix LADIES room, even when the bar was empty (i.e. not a boys' sexytimes night, when yeah, maybe girls should stay home)?

I'm with you 100% that the redesign is terrible. But your version of Phoenix is not the one I knew from 1999-2006. "Why does this neighborhood bar have to be turned into some cozy, Catskills breakfast nook?" I don't know! It sucks! But why not just say THAT and not insult your lesbian sisters? Sarcasm is a poor way to communicate, and not everyone "has come to know [your] sense of humor."

Anonymous said...

I thought Phoenix was managed by a lesbian for a good part of the 2000s. Lauren.

Lux Living said...

I'm not apologizing for dick - no pun intended. It's the continual homogenization of gay bars in NYC that's ruining them. If you want to know why long time patrons have started to abandon this place, here are a few examples.

Kenny Dash – Over the summer, I hesitantly paid $5 for the “entertainment” which was Kenny Dash dishing tired material in a rayon wig before belittling the 18 year old black and latino strippers. It was mean spirited at best and exploitative at worst. The strippers looked confused as they were mocked in front of the small audience who was having none of it. You want to protect the fellow “queers”? Please start with the strippers! I felt bad for these guys for days as this particular "performance" borderlined on hate speech.

The Phoenix continued to book Dash and while he was on, most of the regulars sat outside smoking, waiting for the cringe-worthy show to end.

The new DJ – The Phoenix also found the one DJ on earth who manages to take a variety of good music and strip the essence out of the artists in generic remixes which makes the recent removal of the jukebox that more painful.

Bad Bands – On another night, I was witness to the worst Riot Grrrl band I have ever heard. And I happen to LOVE that genre of music. They couldn’t play their instruments and it was a disaster. Again, the patrons standing outside smoking, waiting for it to end.

Lesbian Porn – Another recent night I sat under a TV playing 50’s lesbian soft core porn for an hour.

These are just a few recent examples of why the “new” Phoenix is bleeding regulars.

Park Avenue Grinch said...

To the above best friend of the decorator responsible – there is no reason to apologize. YOU may want to take some of your own advice and “learn from the experience” however.

What other things should Lux not think, feel or express? Could YOU maybe supply a list? That would be oh so helpful. You clearly are THE arbiter of good taste – not to mention humor – so who better to be in control of censorship? THAT is what the “spirit” of the East Village is truly about, right? If only you were around for Emma Lazarus or Lenny Bruce or Allen Ginsburg. It would have been SUCH a better world with you and thought police protection.

There was nothing nasty or cruel written. There was no call for protest or boycott. There was no judgment being passed. Just an opinion expressed. WITH SARCASM. Sandra Bernhard, Margaret Cho, John Leguizamo, Eric Bogosian, Lisa Lampanelli and countless others have used far more incendiary images and words to paint a picture and elicit a concept. In the East Village.

Re-fucking-lax Sister.

Anonymous said...

Are they serving well drink in rusty ladles and glass milk bottles too? I have a serious problem with duck art too.

Anonymous said...

Yeah and you see how well her venture on A went. Just saying...

Anonymous said...

4:26, Section 8 was the most grim and depressing bar on earth, but my point is that the "old" Phoenix everyone misses was managed by an OMG lesbian who amazingly enough didn't adhere to a Bennigan's aesthetic. What is YOUR point?

Anonymous said...

Lux Living you forgot to include the straight bartenders they hired for pride weekend in your list.

Anonymous said...

@446 Bring her back then!!!

Anonymous said...

A bar with no jukebox? Really?!

Anonymous said...

It looks like someone dropped a TGI Fridays in the front corner. I didn't like it either when I saw it this weekend.

Anonymous said...

Duck art! ROFL

Anonymous said...

^4:46, It's not that it was managed by an OMG lesbian, but more a lesbian who had a lot of help.

Anonymous said...

I agree the new look is dull but no need to randomly blame lesbians. Why not go after the guys who run the place? I am fine with politically incorrect humor but he wasn't satirizing the ridiculous notion that all lesbians have a bad sense of interior design--he was pushing a tired stereotype, and he wasn't kidding. And why do that? What do lesbians have to do with the redesign of Phoenix? Why not make fun of the gay guys who run the place? Like a lot of my buddies they probably own houses in the Catskills decorated with the items Lux Living hates. Visit any antiques shop in and around Woodstock and you'll find gay men shopping their hearts out.

Anonymous said...

Okay so which one of you works for the Phoenix?

Lux Living said...

@6:23 I wasn't randomly blaming lesbians but pointing out a consistent and continued female angle being pushed on the patrons. Lesbian poetry night, Riot Grrrl bands, lesbian porn on the televisions and now milk jugs and sewing machines. What the fuck already?

I have zero problem with lesbians. The newish chick bartender with the super curly hair and indie vibe is so fucking adorable it hurts.

Anonymous said...

can everyone do a LITTLE due diligence before posting and ranting and raving?

LUX: all the changes you are rattling on and on about, strippers, djs, bands, etc were made by the OLD MANAGEMENT. the new owner did not take over until Two weeks ago.

@6:23 please pay attention. the phoenix was purchased by a lesbian and that is the person who "runs the place".

both of you : her being a lesbian has nothing to do with it! THANK YOU @3:06 for pointing out precisely the point all complainers seem to ignore..gay bars, while in the past serving as community centers of sorts are bottom line BUSINESSES, if everyone who liked it the way it was would have continued to patronize the establishment, the owners may not have have sold it and it would have stayed the same. VERY SIMPLE. "i haven't been to the phoenix in years BUT..." no buts. that's why it changed.

now either this horrible aesthetic is going to run this BUSINESS into the ground, or attract a new different crowd who GASP shudder to believe LIKES IT. busses let out everyday with a new crop of young homo's, bi's, lesbians, trans, and pan sexual people all coming to new york with their own agenda and dreams and taste in bars.

i personally will NOT be going to the phoenix anymore. The new owner got rid of my favorite bartenders, changed the vibe i liked, picked a color that was OBVIOUSLY on the clearance rack at kmart and lost me as a customer. but this is new york. and i bet you i can find a place i'll like as much if not more. i will always remember my good times there over the years and the friends and bad decisions i made there. ;) i'll miss it, but the conversation happening here is all a little late in the game, now isn't it? LUX as much as i disagree with you about alot of what you have to say it sounds like you at least were a regular customer, so cheers to you for helping the phoenix stay the way it was for as long as it did, so that those of us that were regulars could enjoy it too.

money talks, bullshit walks.

good night PHOENIX BAR and thanks for the memories. if any of you have a neighborhood bar you like that's still open, please sign off your damned computer and go there and buy a drink. OR TWO. so that we won't have to be reading about it closing or changing hands on some blog in a few months.

damn. i'm thristy.

Lux Living said...

Thanks Anon 8:49

This is the best comment thus far. As a patron, I was not aware of who was responsible for what changes and when they were made. All I know is that, as person who loves to go out and drink with friends, this place has suffered an identity crisis the past few months.

I went to the Phoenix tonight and the general consensus was the patrons were not into the jazz band playing tomorrow or the singer / songwriter scheduled for the night after. One of the new owners was tending bar and I liked her, she is a business owner and it's her prerogative to do what she feels needs to be done to earn a living. If that means uncomfortable bench seating, sewing machines, and Applebees signage, more power to her...I suppose.

I was a regular customer. What I liked about the Phoenix was that, at least happy hour, it was a throw back to the day when people could have a cocktail and talk. We didn't need a lifestyle, we didn't need entertainment, we just wanted to get together, talk and drink.

BUT I did learn the jukebox is still there, it's just tucked in the far back...where the milk jugs and decorative ducks should be! ;)

Marty Wombacher said...

IT'S LADY GAGA!

Anonymous said...

Can we assume Lux won't be letting his lesbian baby carrier decorate the baby's room? :)

Anonymous said...

I miss the dive bar atmosphere but there must be a reason they are making the changes. Maybe they weren't attracting enough customers with the previous look. It was getting grimy.

Lux Living said...

@5:17

She can keep it in a milk jug for all I care! ;)

Anonymous said...

Wish this place would shut down (do we really need all these bars in neighborhood?) and reopen as a restaurant, a laundromat, a book store, something that contributes more than drunken patrons and vomit. I have to walk by here most weekend mornings and it ain't pretty! I had a guy nearly puke on my feet one night.

Anonymous said...

after seeing this post earlier in the day, i figured i'd go investigate for myself. pretty sloppy reporting, if you ask me. yes, that one corner pictured here is different. yes, there are some new coats of paint and a refinished floor. yes, the jukebox is gone.

but...

...phoenix is still UNDENIABLY a dive bar. nothing looked drastically different in the dim evening light. the clientele was still about the same as it's always been. bud lights were still $2 (wednesday night special)! the overall vibe has not changed. at all.

oh and there is definitely still a nudie photo hunt machine, just now its on the short end of the bar.

and there's a bathroom on the main level, which, if you are as lazy with walking as you are with reporting, you will appreciate!

and all this talk about chill normal gay bars disappearing, give me a break. phoenix is still the same, and nowhere and boiler room are essentially the exact same place as phoenix. 3 great dive-y gay bars all within the east village? get some perspective people.

Lux Living said...

So much for the new Phoenix being this all inclusive LGBT bar with a diverse clientele! I popped in last night with a friend to grab a quick drink and there was a noticeable divide in the room – a few gay men towards the front of the bar while the 20 chickies (don’t want to say ‘lesbians’ and steam anyone’s clams) held court in the rest of the space. The one or two men who did walk in off the street walked right back out after scoping out the all girl crowd. It had a flash mob feel to it because they kept running in and out of the bar giving their friends directions as if there was an S.O.S. to get people in there. Hardly a sustaining business model.

Having been there quite a few times since my last rave review, the customers' conversations have always been peppered with Bennigan’s reverences and a majority of the people wanted to know why they even bothered to keep the Phoenix name only to change the bar so drastically and blatantly burn the existing clientele. The best was the other night when one of the regular bartenders had to train these two Abercrombie and Fitch twinks. The vapid, personality-free newbies spend most of their time primping in the mirrors and texting with their back to the patrons. Good luck with that scene! McSwiggan's is starting to look good right about now.