Owner of Pieces to Open 2nd Bar in Hell’s Kitchen
In July 2011, Pieces owner Eric Einstein brought before the Village/Soho Community Board his plan to move into a new space on West Eighth Street as the lease was running out on the current location at 8 Christopher Street, on the far western side of the fabled Greenwich Village thoroughfare.
"The (current) landlord told us in no uncertain terms that the lease extension ending spring 2012 would be our last; they planned to gut the building," Einstein told EDGE.
Despite dozens of supporters speaking passionately in support of the business, the board, which has a reputation as being notoriously anti-nightlife, gave significant weight to the half dozen of those in opposition to the move. Accusations of fistfights outside the bar, strewn condoms on Gay Street and other nefarious doings had supporting attendees laughing in derision. But when the proposal was voted down, no one was amused.
Einstein eventually got approval from the larger local community board; it was virtually unanimous. Then, just two weeks later, on Aug. 1, 2011, minutes before the lease was to be signed, landlord Jane Goldman backed out of the deal with little explanation.
"This meant that the struggle to get approval for the liquor license as well as months of negotiations and tens of thousands of dollars was for naught" Einstein noted.
The gay blogosphere had exploded all summer with opinions on the situation. It was clear that, despite a fading presence in the West Village, the LGBT community really felt strongly about the then 18-year-old business.
"Customers, friends, staff, people I’d never even met rallied around the "Save Pieces" cause, and it showed me that there still is a gay community buried deep down somewhere, that people really do still care about one another, and that Pieces is more than just a bar to a lot of folks out there. It was touching--and I’m not so easily touched."
And propelled by that support, Einstein continued to look for a new location, but this time in Hells Kitchen. And he found one, in a storefront that formerly housed a "to the construction trade" electronics and lighting business on the west side of Tenth Avenue between West 47th Street and West 48th Street. By late October 2011, after approval by the more reasonable Community Board there, the lease was signed and construction began immediately on transforming the space.
The new bar, to be called Hardware, is expected to open in April 2012; construction began in November. Hardware will include state-of-the-art soundproofing and alternate entrances for Hardware staff and customers from the entrance used by residents who live in the apartments above the bar.
Smokers will be asked by the doorman to walk up half a block to the corner of West 48th Street and Tenth Avenue as a way to keep second hand smoke out of the building’s 16 residences.
The bar’s name would seem to be part of the trend in gritty-but-trendy Hell’s Kitchen toward one-named bars. But the name isn’t necessarily indicative of the interior décor, Einstein says. Rather, he notes, Hardware will have "the same friendly atmosphere of friendly bartenders, cheap drinks and fun events that Pieces has developed a reputation for over the years. It will be recognizable, for sure, but different."
The bar will feature "tacky decorations which change all the time" and "silly, over-the-top theme parties" which Einstein agrees, ’makes it special" in the Village location.
Meanwhile, the mother ship on Christopher Street was given an extension of its lease and will stay open for some time to come. The décor has been refreshed, new floors and bathroom fixtures and minor upgrades are all over the place.
Hardware is part of a migration of gay bars from the crowded (and expensive) Ninth Avenue strip to Tenth Avenue. Bartini, four blocks down, began the trend. Recently Fairy Tales opened right around the corner from Hardware.
When XL opened a month ago on West 42nd Street west of Tenth Avenue, it definitely cemented the Far West Side of Hell’s Kitchen as the up-and-coming mini-gayborhood. XL is the biggest gay club to open in the city in many years. Fairy Tales brings a Downtown vibe by featuring edgy personalities like Cazwell and Amanda Lepore.
As for XL, not only is it the only gay mega-club in town, but also it is creating a space for performers like Jessye Normous and Lady Bunny (who’s experiencing her own renaissance from her successful run at Esquelita). Unfortunately, another Downtown Manhattan mainstay, Boxers, was ultimately turned down by the State Liquor Authority in its attempts to open a satellite of its wildly popular Chelsea location on the corner of Tenth Avenue and West 52nd Street.
Hardware, meanwhile, is sure to bring many more customers to what was once an avenue notable for its crime (as far back as 1936, choreographer George Balanchine could name a ballet "Slaughter on Tenth Avenue," and it would immediately be obvious to the audience why he did so.)
As Boxers’ travails demonstrate, it’s not getting easier to open on Tenth Avenue, which some community activists fear will go the way of Ninth. As for Einstein, he’s battle scarred but satisfied. "I keep telling myself that there must have been an easier way to become a chain!" he quipped.