[The War on Fun by Wilfrid: February 22, 2008]
Maybe this shouldn't be in the War on Fun Department, as I can't place all the blame the evil alliance of unelected Community Boards and New Puritans for these problems. But I wanted to draw attention to this article in the New York Observer...
...in which the estimable Chris Shott reports the club scene's steady retreat from live entertainment. In addition to the high profile closure of Tonic (and the final shuttering of CBGBs), other venues have been cutting back on live music.
I had thought the Continental on 3rd Avenue was closing when I heard about the upcoming final performances. In fact, it was just pulling the plug on musicians: it's still open as dive bar. Live entertainment means overheads, hassle and - often enough - complaints.
Many times have I heard the story of Manitoba's on Avenue B cutting its almost nightly music program back to Mondays pre-10pm, then finally cancelling it. Chris Shott has reprinted the story, with the expletives deleted. Apparently, new upstairs neighbors were astonished and angry to find that a bar owned by the former lead singer of The Dictators was a noise nuisance. Reports and fines followed.
According to Shott, Rififi in the East Village also has a track record of noise citations. Rumors about impending closure have been flying around for weeks, and were given more substance by the decamping of its long-running Saturday night comedy show. Slightly Known People - fine purveyors of a brand of entertainment I usually can't abide, sketch comedy - have already cancelled their Rififi residency.
One thing the troubled Rififi shares in common with the recently closed Mo Pitkins on Avenue A, is that I have trodden the boards of each - in a non-Pink Pig capacity. So I am bound to take this personally. Shott attributes the closure of Mo's "house of satisfaction" to unwieldy mortgage repayments. A virtual live entertainment complex, with three performance spaces, two bars (and decent food until the belt started to tighten), this loss hits the East Village live arts scene particularly hard.
Of course, the sad truth is that, as overheads continue to rise steeply, owners will consider the strong possibility that you make more money with flat screen TVs showing sport, drink specials, and hot bar staff, than you do hosting stand-up comics, readings, and punk rock. And the New Puritans only add to the pressure. As Rififi's owner is quoted as saying: "“Almost every bar has one person who makes it their life’s mission to get the bar closed down."
And there are plenty of these busybodies to go around.