Thursday, July 29, 2010
13th Step owner discusses frat rap, telephone booths and bar names
On Tuesday, Billy Gray had a piece at Guest of a Guest titled, 13th Step Vs. Billy Hurricanes: Which Will Be The East Village's Most Hated Bar?
As Billy wrote, "The 13th Step is part of a massive evil empire whose leaders, unlike Billy Hurricanes', haven't even feigned interest in preserving neighborhood character. But the locals have already taken the all-important first step and admitted they have a problem with (decreasingly) out of place new arrivals."
I've been pretty tough on the 13th Step too... so, in fairness, I asked Michael Asch, one of the two senior co-owners of the 13th Step, and its sibling bars Down the Hatch, The Stumble Inn, Off the Wagon, et al, for his reaction to Billy's article...and other topics... we exchanged messages via Facebook (Michael previously invited me to the 13th Step's opening on July 6, which I did not attend) ... here's, in part, what he had to say ...
"[I found the piece] completely obnoxious ... and immature. The fact that we are being labeled frat bars and bad for a neighborhood's character is totally uncalled for and, for that matter, just plain ignorant."
On the Telephone's legacy:
"How many times are people going to say how upset they are about the removal of telephone booths and for that matter, the Telephone Bar? Has it not occurred to them that the Telephone Bar, as well as many other places that people hold onto in their memories, are going out of business for a reason?"
[Telephone photo via]
On their business model:
"My partner and I spend months and big bucks doing everything that we possibly can to build new spaces with tons of character and old-world charm. In fact, that is what we pride ourselves on.
"We end up with a classic, well-thought-out, safe environment ... a great and inexpensive venue where locals can come and eat, drink, watch sports (yes on 28 TVs -- is that so bad?) ... for just a few bucks.
"We always stay within the letter of the law, and have always run our establishments with the community in mind on many levels. We have had virtually no violations of any kind over a combined 50-plus years in New York. We get involved with many charities, both local and national, sponsor local groups and teams, and attend police precinct meetings regularly and proactively.
"We, too, are saddened by Duane Reade, Starbucks and the other big-chain-store takeovers of these neighborhoods. We are the exact opposite. We try and move with the times, by opening venues that will give value, and most important, create jobs for the city and these areas."
On coming up with the name the 13th Step:
"We do use names that make you stop and laugh, smile or, maybe in some few instances, grimace, but that is solely a marketing tool that has been successful for our formula.
"We never knew of the unofficial meaning regarding a new AA member being flirted with by current members when we chose the name. We always do a naming contest with friends, family and regulars. We get thousands of creative and comical names, and then a committee votes. [The 13th Step] was meant to be nothing more than the fictitious step that a person would take after having completed the 12-step program. They jokingly would naturally go have a beer and a burger in their local pub. Nothing more, nothing less. We polled dozens of New Yorkers who have been to, or are currently attending, AA meetings, and found 100 percent of them, young and old, to not only find the name funny, but many think it is fantastic, genius, creative, etc.
"Mind you, while we are very inexpensive compared to most other venues in NYC, we DO NOT promote binge drinking, or excessive drinking at all. We strive for great times to be had by all, in a safe and relaxed atmosphere."