Text and photos by Stacie Joy
The Pyramid Club, a defining venue of the East Village scene in the 1980s, will not be reopening, another iconic NYC establishment to shut down as a result of the pandemic.
Having photographed a lot of events and personalities at The Pyramid Club over the years (including the Harley Flanagan and the Cro-Mags, Lydia Lunch and various anniversary parties), I was crushed to learn that the venue at 101 Avenue A between Sixth Street and Seventh Street would not be reopening after COVID-19 restrictions ease.
Opening in 1979, The Pyramid ushered in an era of “socially-conscious drag performance, led by the likes of the Lady Bunny, Lypsinka and RuPaul,” as Village Preservation once put it. In an oral history of the space, Tricia Romano noted: “[The Pyramid] served as a safe haven for freaks, geeks, weirdos, queers, and dreamers to come together and create. Sometimes it was bad; sometimes it was beautiful. But it was never boring.”
The club continued to attract an audience with a variety of dance parties and themed nights, such as Friday I’m in Love.
Manager Maria Narciso and her fiancé, general manager and house DJ TM.8 (aka Quirino Perez), met me outside the venue yesterday to talk to me about the closure, why it happened and what their plans are going forward.
The Pyramid Club, after 40-plus years, has closed. What happened Maria?
The Pyramid Club closing is another consequence of COVID-19. Once we heard that COVID-19 had reached NYC, we immediately decided to close to keep our staff and patrons safe. In doing so, we became the first NYC business to close. March 7, 2020, was the last time our doors were open to the public.
No one expected this “Pause” to last more than a year. While many businesses were allowed to open with heavy restrictions, nightclubs and performance venues/theaters have suffered the most. With no relief in the near future, or clear requirements/restrictions for reopening, not to mention the loss of being shuttered over a year, The Pyramid Club owners decided to close.
Can you speak a bit about how things have unfolded over the past year? Would you say this is solely COVID-related? Did you have hopes of reopening?
Quirino and I never doubted that The Pyramid Club would reopen. Throughout 2020, and as recently as two weeks ago, we’ve worked on plans to reopen. We reached out to friends in the community to provide food we could sell at the venue, even considered purchasing tables and chairs to place in six-foot squares on the dance floor, among other options, but we were never granted permission to present our plans.
When and how were you notified about the closure?
After many months of asking the owners about their reopening plans and always getting the same answer, “we’re not ready, yet” and knowing that now we had a date from NYS/NYC to open on April 2, Quirino asked once again and received a text message reply stating that due to COVID-19, The Pyramid Club will not reopen.
Any chance another owner might take over the space/name? Do you know what the landlord might be planning for the space?
For decades, managers have run The Pyramid Club with unfortunately very little communication from the owners. We don’t know what their plans are, as they are very private people and rarely, if ever, talk about their business plans with us.
You and Quirino have been hosting DJ sets on Twitch. How have those gone? Do you think there’s still a market for what the Pyramid offers?
We have worked really hard this past year to keep our community intact, close, and have grown our audience throughout this Pause. During the tougher months in 2020, when so many people became sick and we all experienced so much loss, we came together, grieved together, and supported one another in our livestream chats, while DJ TM.8 kept everyone’s mind off what was going on outside their homes.
Our community is strong and resilient: we’re survivors, and The Pyramid spirit will live on. The Pyramid Club is not just a building, it’s an energy, a vibe, and it lives inside of all us.
How do you feel about being a part of such an iconic East Village venue?
DJ TM.8 has been with The Pyramid Club family for more than 37 years. They were his first and only employer since he began working in his teens. He started washing dishes at their restaurants, became a barback at many of their now-closed nightclubs — including The Bank — and discovered his passion for music while working at The Pyramid Club, where he taught himself how to use the necessary equipment.
He worked his way up from dishwasher/barback to GM and now he is recognized worldwide. It has truly been an honor to have been part of this legendary NYC landmark. He’s very appreciative and humbled to have been given such an opportunity and responsibility.
I have always been a people person, and planning events was something I’ve done as a hobby over the years. When I met Quirino, and became part of his team, I was able to do what I love and organize events every week.
Always a 1980s music lover, The Pyramid Club seemed like a perfect match for me. Assisting him these past five years, and being employed by The Pyramid Club has had its ups and downs, but it’s been overall rewarding. You can’t put a price on friendships, and I’m grateful for the many wonderful friends we’ve made while working there. DROM on Saturday nights? Is this a Pyramid revival? What are the plans for this new venue and location?
Because we had no response from the owners for a long while, we looked for venues for booking DJ TM.8 until The Pyramid Club was able to open. Now, with the news of The Pyramid Club not opening, we are excited to announce that we have found a permanent home for DJ TM.8’s events. The Rapture Dark ’80s and Obsession Friday will take place at Eris in Williamsburg and Temptation Saturday will take place at DROM. Details and dates to be announced soon.
What are your plans going forward, and how can people keep in touch?
It has been an honor to serve our East Village community at this NYC landmark. We have continued to grow our worldwide community started by the original Pyramid management and patrons. We owe them so much for building that strong foundation.
Together with all the promoters and events: Defcon NYC Industrial, No Return Post Punk Society, DJ Rob Xtian, Occulture, and Friday I’m in Love, we will carry on and continue to be there for our community.
We will eventually change the name of our social media pages, but for the moment, we’d encourage everyone to follow us on Instagram and Facebook, plus DJ TM.8 on Twitch.
The Pyramid Club means so much to so many and many have created beautiful memories here. We truly wish we could do something to change what has happened, but we cannot. The Pyramid spirit is inside all of us though and will live on!
This is horrifying. I’m so devastated about this.
Thank you so much Maria and Quirino, and RIP to the Pyramid Club.
Wow, this is terrible news.
I am literally crying right now.
But let's focus on the positive.
Maria and Quirino will still organize the parties we love.
This is terrible news, and a terrible loss for the neighborhood. Who are the owners, anyway? Best wishes to Maria and Quirino, and thanks for giving us so many fun times.
Man, this is a touch one to swallow.
This SUCKS. 🙁
Well that's truly the final nail in the coffin of weird and decadent old NY. CBGBs, Mudd Club, Pyramid, Peppermint Lounge, Diplomat Hotel, Berlin..........to have experience that when I was a kid was pretty amazing........1980 NYC, such a brilliant time to be alive. That was sort of the petri dish of the art, music and culture scene that exists today. Unfortunately, a lot people perished due to drugs and AIDS, but looking back I was lucky to have been there living in an apt that cost $150/ month !
Noooo! This is incredibly sad. No words.
Nelson Sullivan has a ton of videos from shows at the Pyramid from the 80s. Spend the rest of your week reliving the fun on youtube:
Huge loss for the EV. Truly the end of an era.
a very sad exclusive. RIP to a legendary place.
Iconic is an understatement. The Pyramid is the Cotton Club of the 1980's performance and art scene. A magnet for everyone which refused to be defined by other's labels. I met my partner there in Spring of 1982, 39 years later we are grateful The Pyramid was the place which brought us together. In a neighborhood which has been gutted of its soul these past 20 years the Pyramid is (was) that almost an eternal reminder of an exciting and culturally historic moment in NYC's history.
It's kind of disgusting that a couple of owners who don't communicate with anyone can sit on a piece of NYC history and decide to just shutter it without any conversation or negotiation. Was The Pyramid Club a cash-only business? Got to wonder what skeletons are in their closet... or at least the IRS might
Noooooo!!! I can't even tell you how many of my glitter/glam and punk albums I lent my friend Danny during the years he DJ'd there in the early 1980s, or how often I went to dance and just let loose - this is beyond heartbreaking!!!
I really hope this is some sort of sick April Fools joke.
Wow - Shocking news and like everyone mentioned a massive blow to the scene and the East Village. Just stunned. Thanks Stacie for reporting
I am crying and shaking in bed unable to process this loss. I have been going to The Pyramid for 30 years and I met my husband there. I brought all my best friends from around the world there and we would often dance until closing. This is tragic, thank you to Maria and DJ TM8 for trying to continue the spirit.
Even though I hadn’t been there or played there since the 90’s and it turned into something I wasn’t part of, I was glad to see it remained all these years walking past it to the library or 2A or whatever. All the interesting places that made the neighborhood what is was are going going gone. Hope it doesn’t turn into another bank or glass box condo.
if those walls could talk... many memorable nights and mornings from the 80’s and 90’s... a true East Village icon... RIP Pyramid
Hell of a run!
truly the end of an era. for those of us for whom clubs were a community and not just a night out, this is devastating. who are the owners?
Just another example of landlords/owners not caring about the East Village (or NYC as a whole). The Pyramid is a beloved cultural landmark, and the owner didn't gaf.
Heart wrenching. :-(
Why dont you ask the Mayor and Gov when these places can reopen. So many pro lockdown anti bar comments here and now people are upset? They've been closed for over a year with no idea when they can reopen or what the restrictions will be. Businesses cant survive at 25% and who wants to go out and sit at a table wearing a mask? The owners didn't shut it down .The government did without much conversation and no negotiations. But the owners are the bad guys?
Indeed. As far as I'm concerned, Pyramid closed after Brian Butterick left, never was crazy about the turn it took after the late 90s, but just unilaterally shuttering with a single text message is sketchy at best. Ten to one the building gets sold and a Starbucks pops up...
It stinks and I don't like it!
I am so very sorry. :(
Why give up now, when all this federal money is heading towards venues?
Geeze, XTC. If your going to run down the list, at least mention the one that started it all. Club 57.
Do the owners also own the building? Is there any chance of anyone else taking it over?
Who are these mysterious owners and why are they being douches about this?
Should read probably "will not reopen under current management"
They can't get a phone call from the owners says a lot.
I worked their in the 90s and I'm pretty sure the space will continue on under new management.
What sad news.
I lived right around the corner when I moved to NYC in the mid '90s and have some fun memories of nights spent there. Life got in the way but I always breathed a sigh of relief when I saw the Pyramid was still there. Always hoped I'd get another night dancing in before it was too late
Like everyplace else in the EV, Pyramid had run its course as an edgy, semi-underground scene by the late ‘90’s. After that give credit to Maria and Quirino, real neighborhood folks, for maintaining the faux-dive bar effect so many other places on the Ave. try to pose as. The parties since 2000 were running on the fumes of the heyday 1980’s to late ‘90’s. The crowds on the main floor were mostly the same as every other bar on the Avenue, well-adjusted consumer culture kids needing a place to act out. The only real party that achieved the original vibe was the Saturday Defcon industrial party in the basement. It felt like just an extension of your own apartment where you could unselfconsciously lounge and get altered or dance to rarely heard banging vibes among a core group of veteran misfits and in-the-know visitors from around the world. Still, the place was an important anchor and icon for the EV and its early heritage of bands and especially the drag scene contribution are rather historic and really the mark of what made NYC a unique place for creativity. In the last 20 years Pyramid could somewhat successfully pretend to be the edgy underground place on the Avenue, but it was mostly achieved by dint of the brand name and the lack of any updating to the interior, and that pretense was all the Avenue really had left. So it is a point of extinction in NYC nightlife for the place to disappear.
Just a few quick comments that I know I'm going to get a lot of flak for. One, the owners probably don't care about the heritage of the club or the East Village or the club or anything, they probably only owned it to make money off it. I knew an owner of the Pyramid 40 years ago, he didn't care about the club, he was only interested in making money. I started a live music policy at one of his other bars. Hey, Bill Graham decided to close the Fillmore East in 1971, he created it, he ended it.
I'm a music guy, not a dance club guy. But, to all the people bemoaning the end of the East Village spirit, etc. before Covid, did all you guys go out regularly? Either to dance clubs or to live music clubs? There are a ton of live music clubs in the East Village and LES and many of them for FREE - Rockwood Stage 1, Parkside, Otto's, Nublu, the Bowery Electric's Map Room and many, many others, and other music clubs that charge. There's a lot of mediocrity but there's also a lot of great music and musicians who are still slugging it out. Has everyone been going out to support the clubs and musicians?
All I'm saying is yes, things are different, but that's how life goes, sorry. Sure, we can talk about all the places and people that are gone, but what about all the places and people that are still here? Support music, support musicians, support clubs, there's till life out there. And my apologies if I'm being too callous here, I don't mean any disrespect.
As sad as this is.....The Pyramid club has helped moved the cultural clock forward in terms of acceptance of people other than Leave it to Beaver "normal".
"Drag Queen Story Hour
Tune in to our upcoming Drag Queen Story Hour (DQSH) on Tuesday, April 6th at 4pm, hosted by 92Y and funded by my office. This virtual event will feature stories and songs for kids ages 3–8 and will remain available to watch online. Through storytelling and creativity, DQSH teaches children about gender diversity and all forms of difference to build empathy and give kids the confidence to express themselves however they feel comfortable. To view all upcoming DQSH events, visit www.dqshnyc.org"
OH NO! I just turned 51 and have memories of amazing Pyramid nights from 1990 to just a couple of years ago. Sorry to see you go. Nothing last forever, but this is hard one. Rock on!
@RRReality- Not sure what you mean by *original vibe.* That's obviously simply not something that can be re-created anywhere in any place. In 1976 nobody knew that scene at CBGBs was a world changing historical moment in time. I don't think the Pyramid was pretending to be anything other than what it was for the past 20 years. The thing is it's never the club that makes a scene but the people and their creativity
who make that scene something special. It became sort like a working class bar for queer shit and while that was far removed from the *original vibe* that's ok too- especially for young kids who hopefully might be inspired to create the next Pyramid.
Beautifully written melancholy
Wigstock started out of pyramid. RIP
Pyramid was the place where a lot of scenes came together. You could find all the punk & goth people you hadn't seen in years. You would dance with the gay crowd, the swingers, the fetish crowd, the yuppies, the nyu kids. I will miss it. It really was a place where time seemed to stop...
Deeply saddened. The Pyramid was the first place that I felt like reminded me of home when I moved to NYC in the late 90’s. It was the last place I gathered with my friends when I left NYC. I was looking forward to it always being there when I returned to visit. Really sad owners didn’t support them. Wishing them the best of luck and thank them for everything they did to try to keep The Pyramid (and always playing my songs).
Stories like this are heartbreaking. While I generally fully support COVID safety measures, a federal/state/local government should not be able to shut down businesses en masse without providing financial relief. There is just no way for a business to be close for a year and survive without either going into massive debt through loans or government relief.
These are mostly live music venues. It's different.
This is so sad, truly.. thank you for taking the time Stacie to give everyone the details about this. My heart is broken, but i'm optimistic that something good will also be coming out of this in the future.. HOPING
Agree. They have no idea when they can reopen or what the rules will be. Does anyone want to go out and have to get a temp check, wear a mask, sit at a table the entire time? Why bother? The govt shut these places down with no financial support or guidelines for a realistic opening. If you are pro lockdown stop crying and complaining. Though I suppose you have a higher chance of catching something after a night here than catching covid. LOL.
I'm very happy I got to dj here a few times when I was a little younger. I will miss this place for sure, I met alot of friends here for the first time, and alot of crazy memories.
Lol. Crazy times. Deffinatly made out in that bathroom with a few peeps hahaha
Culture has changed so much that Leave it to Beaver “normal” is what’s going extinct now.
But realistically it’s the internet and the rise in general wealth that killed it Covid just sped things up.
Wow what heartbreaker. though i have not set foot inside in decades, i spent so many many nights and very early mornings in that place! 1982 - 1990 or so. i always think of Wendy Wild when i think of that place. and the Fleshtones. And Michael/Sarah/Jamie/Sharon/Phillip! so crazy. so fun. remember when the Red Hot Chili Peppers played there? no, of course you don't. there were maybe 40 people there. YES they had bands play from time to time. Love Delegation anyone? it was a moment in time. eventually we moved on. but it was a helluva time! RIP Pyramid! RIP EV. - Andrew B
Agree, even the apt cost...we were so lucky, so blessed to have been a part of all that.
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