Monday, August 24, 2020
Speculating about the future of John Varvatos in the former home of CBGB on the Bowery
The gate remains down at the John Varvatos outpost at 315 Bowery. The shop between First Street and Second Street has been locked up for the past few weeks.
Bowery watchers are speculating about what might be happening with the address, considered hallowed ground by some for being the home of CBGB from 1973 to 2006.
First, some background on what has been happening with JV, the menswear designer. According to the retailer's website, all of the brand's locations are currently closed. (The Bowery shop returned on July 2, and stayed opened for several weeks.)
As The Wall Street Journal reported on July 24, John Varvatos was in financial trouble long before the COVID-19 pandemic. The business filed for bankruptcy protection on May 6, with a buyout offer from an affiliate of Lion Capital of London and Los Angeles.
(The Journal article also outlines an Equal Pay Act class-action lawsuit that began in 2017 by female sales associates at the retailer. Earlier this year, the sales associates won a jury verdict in an Equal Pay Act class-action lawsuit. "Varvatos denied discrimination. The jury ruled against the retailer, awarding $1.7 million in legal fees, as well as the $3.5 million in damages.")
In late July, WWD reported that a Lion Capital subsidiary was expected to acquire the bankrupt brand and merge it into the AllSaints portfolio. (AllSaints the British fashion retailer, sells menswear, womenswear apparel, footwear and accessories in more than 230 stores.) Varvatos was also rumored to be leaving the company.
John Varvatos opened here in April 2008... the first tenant since the storied music club shut down on Oct. 15, 2006, after a losing a deal to renew the lease with their landlord, the Bowery Residents' Committee.
JV preserved part of the former CBGB space, keeping parts of the wall with sticker and flyers intact and preserved behind glass inside the shop.
At the time, there was debate about all this. Some were in the "it's-better-than-a-bank-or-a Fuddruckers camp." Others preferred that the old space was gutted rather than turned into a museum alongside $300 Cheap Trick t-shirts. (In 2008, Arturo Vega, creative director for the Ramones, told the Post: "I like it. I'm relieved. We were expecting a drug store in the space. So when I found out it was Varvatos moving in, it was a relief.")
For now, the speculation is on whether JV will ever reopen, and if not, will a AllSaints outpost open in the space, perhaps keeping the CBGB memory alive on the walls?