Friday, March 4, 2016
[Photo by James and Karla Murray]
Words and photos (except where noted) by EVG contributor Stacie Joy
I recently stopped by The Parkside Lounge, 317 E. Houston at Attorney Street, to talk with co-owner Christopher Lee about the newly renovated back-room lounge and accompanying brand-new bar.
Lee started bartending at this Lower East Side mainstay in 2003, and became co-owner (joining Karen Waltermire) in 2009. Originally from Natchitoches, La., Lee says he knew the minute he walked into the long-standing bar it was the place for him.
Here, he discusses the new space and what it took to make it happen.
What is different about the new back room compared to the old space?
We renovated everything back there with the goal of it being a more inviting space to perform in as well as be more comfortable for our patrons.
The room no longer smells like old stale beer thanks to the new hardwood floors. Just getting rid of the carpet was a big addition. There's a brand new air-conditioning unit and ducts to better regulate our seasonal climate. I love the aesthetic that it brings as well. What used to be something we tried to hide is front and center, shiny and functional.
We took down a non-load-bearing wall to open up the space and make room for our new bar. The room really does feel much bigger now.
Between the new floor and the wall coming down, we were concerned about the acoustics of the space. We’ve had many musicians over the years tell us that the sound in the room was amazing and we didn’t want to mess that up. The carpet that was there didn’t smell very good but it really kept the sound warm. To that end we brought in some super high-tech soundproofing that was installed underneath the new sheetrock (our neighbors appreciated this step as well). We also invested in an updated PA system for the performances back there.
We’ve got new lights to update that aspect of the space. I’m an actor and love seeing people come in and rethink the room for theater. We’ve had a few shows in here recently and I really love it when the playing space isn’t on the stage. Now refocusing lights will be a button click away rather than something we have to manually do before each performance. Flexibility in what you can do as a business is important. With the neighborhood around us in a constant state of flux staying relevant is what keeps our doors open.
What about the bar back there?
We installed a full bar dedicated to the space. This was a big step for us. Between the requirements for the city and the State Liquor Authority (SLA), getting the license alone was a marathon endeavor.
Having bartended for years in high-volume environments, being able to serve a packed room was an important part of the design but we didn’t want it to take over the space either. The wood is beautiful, tough, and fits in perfectly back there. I love perching on the corner back there watching bands over everyone’s heads. It just feels great.
What was involved in making the changes and how long did it take?
Oh dear Lord, I can’t fully answer this. Let me just say that coordinating with City Hall, the SLA, contractors, plumbers, snow storms, and all the other wackiness of New York City, there were always balls up in the air. It took a full two years to get the room renovated and the bar licensed.
You can find a schedule of upcoming events at Parkside's Facebook page here. You can follow them on Twitter here.