Monday, June 28, 2010

Whatever happened to simple bar names... and concepts?

I'm thinking about some of the bars that I like in the neighborhood... Joe's, Mona's, Lucy's, Sophie's, Manitoba's, 2A, 7B ... all have pretty simple names — and concepts. Some other bars have been around long enough that I don't even think twice about the names anymore ... the International, the Blue & Gold, Mar's Bar, the Phoenix, the Grassroots, the Holiday Cocktail Lounge ...

Apparently, simplicity doesn't work anymore ... simple names, simple concepts... In the Times last week, Frank Bruni noted the three owners of the new Blind Barber on East 10th Street:

"This troika of tricksters is determined to get your attention. That’s no easy feat in the crowded downtown drinkscape, where the competition comes armed with secret entrances, hidden alleys, pharmaceutical paraphernalia, taxidermy. What’s left? A bar with barbers, it turns out."

Given the economics, I suppose you can no longer open a bar called Jim's where people could come and drink and have conversations and be profitable.

No, wait. I suppose you can no longer open a bar called Jim's where people who live in the neighborhood could come and drink and have conversations and be profitable.

So let's take a look at some of the new bars (and restaurants) that just opened or are opening very soon in the neighborhood:

1) The 13th Step

The team behind Down the Hatch is opening the 13th Step at the former Telephone Bar on Second Avenue. I posted this back in February.

The term the 13th Step means: This term is used as a euphemism for inappropriate sexual advances by a member to a newcomer in AA (such as sponsors toward sponsees).

In a post on the new 13th Step sign last week... some readers here weighed in...:

13th step. What the fuck is that, now we're gonna get all quaint and cutesy and ironic about alcoholism? Gawd sometimes I really hate people and their "creative ideas".


Pretty soon we will have more bars with ridiculous flippant alcohol problem-referencing names like "The Drunk Tank", "Drunk and Disorderly's", "Alcohol Poisoning", "The Binge", "DUI"... possibilites are endless.

2) SRO

Theres's a new upscale winery coming to Stanton in the Bowery... at the former annex for the SRO Sunshine Hotel. So. The new owners tastefully decided to name this place... SRO... This name annoyed the CB3/SLA committee last Monday night, as Eater noted. (Read BoweryBoogie's coverage of this place here.)

As Jeremiah wrote about SRO: "another unfortunate appropriation of poverty-related language by caterers to the affluent. Hey, why not call it Flophouse? Or Soup Kitchen? Or Skid Row? Wouldn't that be hip? How about Scabies?"

3) The Ninth Ward

As Fork in the Road reported, the owners of Shoolbred's are taking over the former Thai on Two space on Second Avenue. Per the Fork:

"The new place will have an 1890s' New Orleans feel, with absinthe drips and classic cocktails, much like Laffite's or the Old Absinthe House on Bourbon Street. Some food — most likely, Cajun standards — will be served."

Fine, but... When I heard that name, I recalled my trip to New Orleans in the fall of 2006 — nearly 14 months after Hurricane Katrina wiped out portions of the city. A friend, who was born and raised in New Orleans, took me for a tour of the devastation in various parts of the city, including the Lower Ninth Ward. Houses had been knocked off foundations. Not much remained except some muck — layers of canal water, sewage and dirt — and mold. Doesn't make me feel like a cocktail.

On Friday afternoon, Fork in the Road noted Louisiana-transplant and writer Cajun Boy's reaction via Twitter:

A New Orleans-themed bar in NYC called Ninth Ward has opened. Maybe I'll open a NYC-themed bar in New Orleans and call it World Trade Center

4) Billy Hurricane's

In the former Rehab/Midway space (and Save the Robots) space at 25 Avenue B, an upstairs/downstairs combo is opening soon. Grub Street reported in April that the owners will open the "Bourbon. Beer. Rock'–themed Idle Hands in the basement space while upstairs a group with ties to Thunder Jackson’s and Point Break will open Billy Hurricanes, a Mardi Gras–themed bar trafficking in frozen daiquiris, Cajun food, and a signature drink that will be limited to two per person."

Billy's has a blog. The first post notes:

Once we get the kitchen finalized, among other things... we will be ready to rock!
Watch out for our opening night party... will be off the hook!
Please welcome us to the neighborhood.
Are you ready to rock!?

DNAinfo had a follow-up on Billy's/Idle Hands a few weeks back. Per Patrick Hedlund's story:

But even though its door have yet to open, the space has already been forced to contend with negative criticisms that have cast the bar as a theme-park-style venue that will attract rowdy crowds to the residential area.

"There's always going to be somebody who doesn't like it and doesn't want you there," said co-owner Rob Morton, 37 ...

Morton responded to the snipes by saying his group is simply following a long list of glitzier nightlife establishments that have flocked to the formerly gritty area.

"You can't yearn for a neighborhood that was," he said

Or can you?


Jeremiah Moss said...

the city has become, and is continuing to become, a theme park. people who long for Six Flags and Disneyland, for whom NYC was always about getting a t-shirt (and maybe becoming a regular?) at the Hard Rock Cafe and Planet Hollywood, they're the big-ticket drinkers of today.

it's their city. we just live here.

Anonymous said...

"You can't yearn for a neighborhood that was," said co-owner Rob Morton, 37.

Dear Mr. Morton, welcome to hell.

Shawn said...

Jeremiah you're the expert and I love your blog so I'll defer to you, but when a friend of mine was visiting me on my beloved LES, I took him out for what I call a tour of the "the three sisters" (Lucy's Mona's Sophie's), then their big brother, Manitoba's. We had breakfast at Odessa at 5:30AM. At the counter were a couple of old Alphabet City old-timers (Ralph in his trademark overalls) who kept us entertained with stories of the good old days.

The whole night felt like 1983, which is the way I wanted it. Yes, you're right, post-Giuliani Disneyfication is hard to ignore, but it *is possible* to ignore.

An interesting side effect is that the dive/local bars have settled into a neighborhood vibe with hipsters seeking the more trendy spots - of course not always, especially on weekends, but sometimes.

Watching the door at Manitoba's is pure entertainment. The 4-pack high-heeled Carrie Bradshaw wannabes step in, survey the decor, look like they've landed on Mars, and walk out.

We laugh our asses off and order another round of Bud Light.

Viva Loisaida!


Put the name "Shit Faced" in the mix

esquared™ said...

i'm opening up a bar called "Generation O" -- a themed bar with huge shopping bags plastered on the wall and stiletto heels hanging from the ceiling, where the patrons can only view the bar drinks and menu through their ipads, itouch, and iphone, and the orders must either be tweeted or texted to the bartenders and waitresses...

Lisa said...

Me, I'll be opening a concept bar called "Lisa's Suicide Hall". You'll only be allowed in if you're a SATC acolyte or frat boy; the twist is that THE WHOLE FLOOR will periodically open and the trendy masses will disappear into the East River, never to be seen again. My gift to the neighborhood.

glamma said...

i fear the hurricane... aptly named, but perhaps even more suitable would have been tornado of death...

Lisa said...

Oh yeah, and the guests of honor opening night will be Dim - er, Tim - Morton and the other bozos from Billy's. Are you ready to drop?!?

Anonymous said...

I guess when 98 out of every 100 storefronts is already a bar you have to come up with some sort of *CONCEPT* just to attract attention. It's soooo corny. I mean anyone who goes to drink at that Billy Hurricane's place should be openly laughed at. It looks like it should be on Route 34 in Matawan NJ. Where people would also laugh at it.

Anonymous said...

I was thinking of opening a Bowery bar called "the needle exchange". People can only come in if ther are wearing something from Mugatu's Derelicte collection. See you all there . Free condoms for all!,

Jeremiah Moss said...

great ideas! maybe going with the suburbanization concept, a bar called Lawnboy. it's covered in plastic grass, comes with ride-on mower rides, sprinklers for running through, badminton. and the drink special? The Mulch. kind of like a Mudslide, but with chunks of artisanal chocolate bark floating in it.

Anonymous said...

There's probably no way to actually quantify this but my hunch is that the assholes in the East village now officially outnumber the regular people. These new businesses like 13th step, SRO, 9th Ward, etc... asshole proprietors catering to asshole clientele. It's at the point where businesses are literally advertising themselves as douche-friendly.

Laura Goggin Photography said...

I used to joke about opening a bar called Urban the idea doesn't seem so funny.

The good news is all our favorite places (Joe's, Lucy's, etc) will probably be filled with familiar locals while the visitors flock to the themed places.

Anonymous said...

What does "rock" even mean anymore? It's bad enough that these days everyone from chefs to professional golfers are variously referred to as "rock stars". Billy Hurricane's is "ready to rock" and "will be off the hook!" all in the same blog post. Sorry that is just pathetic. What kind of a dork would write such a thing?

Anyways, to me "rock" refers to a genre of blues-based music. It is more than just self-entitled drunk adolescent revelers getting loud and boisterous.

Upstate Johnny G said...

Will there be a group of regulars twenty years from now sitting at the bar in Billy Hurricane's telling newbies stories from "the good old days?" I think not, but I'm afraid to consider what might come to pass that would make Billy Hurricane the Lucy's of 2030. Trendy bars sprouting and dying seems to me to be related to a "mining mentality", i.e. exploitative. Miners extract their profits and move on. For these Disneylandesque bars the motive may be similar: tie into a "hot" theme and name and then push your brand as hard as you can so you do the most business you can in the shortest period of time because the clock is ticking and the half-life of these places is short. Once you've passed the profit peak look to unload on some dupe. There are plenty of them out there -- they are the ones who buy in at the top of every bubble. Then take your profits and go open another place and do it all over again. Deplete the resources, in this case trendoid cash, and move on. The neighborhood, the locals, does not matter except in terms of marketing. You want to be in a very marketable neighborhood. And if you are really clever you have two or three of these bars going at once and really rake in the lucre.

Lest anyone think I'm against this sort of thing.....I must confess I am very close to opening a mini-chain of my own theme bars. The first one will be called "DTs" as an homage to delirium tremens. The second will have Indian tapas and beers. The servers will all wear dark sunglasses at all times. I'll have as many Indian liquors as possible and my mixologists are working on perfecting some exclusive drinks. Fogcutter, Blindsider, Carbide Cocktail, HK (for Helen Keller) are all in the running. I'm going to call it "Bhopal". This place will STEAM! Trust me. And thirdly I'm going for something really off the wall. It will be a shot and beer joint but there will be only one brand of beer: "He-brew" the Kosher beer, and only Polish vodka will be served. For nostalgia's sake I'm looking at LES locations near Delancy. I'm going to name the place Auschwitz. It'll be a riot!

Richard D James said...

Really enjoyed this article!

PS: Anonymous at 1:58 - I totally agree.

Anonymous said...

Wouldn't the ultimate ironic downtown bar name be something like "Douchebag's" and how long before that comes to pass.

Anonymous said...

These people are the worst.

"Rockin' and Rollin!
25 Avenue B is progressing...

- TV's are up! 50inch HD!
- Elevated 'Bayou area up!
- Sound System Rockin!
- Basement Cleared out...

Starzstylista said...

What was the name of the bar that was there before Telephone? I saw Pulsallama there. Cute, cute girls.

My observations:

1. You can ONLY yearn for a neighborhood that was.

2. It is not possible to recreate the EV c. 1983. I am fairly certain at least 2 of Lucy's Mona's Sophie's wasn't open; Odessa bears no resemblance whatsoever to its former self (not to mention Odessa's was if you were feeling flush - Leshko's was cheaper, but not as good); and I imagine Dick Manitoba was busy screwing some 17 year old.

3. Curt Hoppe - you don't still have that loft down on the Bowery do you? (Greetings from 116 W 14th c. 1980).

Anonymous said...

I'm fine with progress, and change is inevitable. That being said, this sounds like a hangout for complete assholes.

Cookiepuss said...

Its great to hear so many people speaking out. We're gaining on them.
Lets preserve what is left and try to push out the pigs. If we can knock down the trendy bars and restaurants this will help the situation. Everyone needs to be aggressive. Notice what is on and around your own block. Talk to people and find out who dislikes the bars, lounges and restaurant. Organize your own group in your specific area.

The New York State Senate just passed a key piece of legislation which will allow the SLA to revoke a license if the police have been called for six or more noise or disorder incidence within sixty days.

Protocol: File a complaint with the community board at click on file a complaint tab. Then file a complaint with 311 as well. Get on the cb3 email list to get information on establishments attempting to obtain a new liquor license, upgrade an existing license and or transfer an existing license as well as establishments applying for outdoor seating. Take notice of information posted on storefront windows. This will give you time to organize people in opposition. Having a record of complaints will be helpful in trying to knock down an establishment. You will also need a petition with signatures. Get organized, find people in your immediate area, pass on the protocol to people and be as aggressive as possible. After all this is our neighborhood not theirs.

glamma said...

wow thanks cookiepuss! cheers to that

Anonymous said...

the douchebags are taking over, even the great recession isn't stopping them...

Anonymous said...

I stopped into Ninth Ward yesterday around 6pm. It has the DARKEST interior of any bar I've ever been in. The private nooks were so dark I thought I had lost my vision. The courtyard looks nice, though! Otherwise, this bar is a dungeon or a Creative Time installation (I felt like I had to sign the waiver!)

11:44 a.m. said...

I'm opening-up a bar called CB3, where the bartender and wait staff will "listen" to your orders but will shill out the very opposite of what you've said and ordered or what they think is best for you. Bartenders will be sitting at the end of the room that resembles a school gymnasium with a long rectangular table in front of them while the patrons sit on metallic folding chairs in the center of the room. And the drinks will be named after its notorious members.

The Stetzer -- a play on bloody mary (since this is how SS runs the committee -- bloody)
bourbon from the South, vodka form Texas, gin from Midwest, craft beer from Brooklyn (representing her constituents), seltzer water (the secret ingredient 'cause it rhymes with Stetzer), wasabi, siracha, cajun hot sauce, serrano chile, tabasco sauce, horseradish -- to represent the incendiariness of the meetings.

The Ariel -- tequila, vodka, rum, triple sec, gin, beer, wine, sour mix, cola, etc. -- pretty much all the beverages, esp. alcoholic beverages the bar was approved and licensed to sell, 'cause you know, there's really no conflict of interest in mixing all this.

The McWater -- vodka, Cointreau, orange liqueur, lime juice, coca-cola, and then drop the Menthos and liquid nitrogen, and watch it explode.

GLi -- a "beer" or "wine", but when ordered you'll get either vodka, tequila, gin, rum, brandy, whiskey, or sake... at the bartender's discretion, depends on how much you tip him/her.