This past spring, the Daily News reported that Harlem's legendary Lenox Lounge was losing its lease. Now we hear from Black Enterprise that the club will be closing its doors December 31. The rent has increased from $10,000 per month to $20,000.
|Owner Alvin Reed, Daily News|
Writes Black Enterprise, "Richard Notar, Managing Partner in Nobu Restaurants, will be taking over the space the bar currently sits at and plans to open a new spot named 'Notar Jazz Club.' Notar has already applied with the local community board for a liquor license." (Notar Jazz Club, LLC, was formed back in August, under Notar's company Raptor Capital Management. Raptor.)
Gawker describes Notar as "a 16-year-old from Jamaica, Queens when he landed a job as a busboy at Studio 54. He spent the next few years partying with the best of them, gobbling down Quaaludes by the fistful, he says, and getting high with the likes of Jean-Michel Basquiat." He is now a luxury restaurant chain mogul. Nobu is a favorite with the Sex and the City set.
|Notar and DeNiro|
Notar is also a business partner of Robert DeNiro. A tipster tells us that DeNiro has "stepped in to save" the Lenox Lounge: "A very prominent jazz musician friend just played there Sunday night and told me straight from the owner's mouth." Which might mean that the name and the neon sign will stay--something the current owner would not allow without a renegotiation. Reported Black Enterprise, "When Reed leaves he’ll be taking the iconic Lenox Lounge neon sign with him... He trademarked the club’s name and even though he’s giving up the space, he’s not giving up the name."
So it's unclear if, after December 31, the Lenox Lounge will still be the Lenox Lounge in name, and what's in store after the Nobu team takes over. We can say that the Lenox Lounge won't be owned by an African-American and it won't be owned by a long-time Harlem resident. History comes back around? When it officially opened in 1942, under owner Dominick Greco, the Lenox Lounge was built expressly for white customers heading uptown to see black performers.
So can we really say it's being saved? Or is this yet another example of "fauxstalgia," where trendy restaurateurs cash in on New York's history? (See: Fedora, Minetta Tavern, Bill's Gay 90s, Rocco's, Waverly Inn, Lion, and Monkey Bar...) Some would say it's all the same, that newcomers are saving these historic places. But many places wouldn't need saving if their landlords didn't have bigger offers. It's all part of the hypergentrification machine. And we have to wonder who will be sitting at the bar, nursing their beers, this time next year.
Harlem has been changing dramatically, and the loss of the Lenox Lounge as it's been is part of that change. Said a real estate agent to DNA one year ago when news of the club's rent hike first hit and restaurateurs were battling for its lease, "They already have a built-in brand, a history before opening the door. These famous places change hands and they have instant popularity. People are always looking for the hot place...Finally the hype has met up with Harlem."
That hype is also bringing a Whole Foods to 125th.