Tuesday, December 4, 2012

Lenox Lounge


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.


Marty Wombacher said...

Rent increases like that are insane. So a new owner takes it over prices skyrocket and a whole new crowd of rich yuppies and tourists become the new crowd. Just stop in for a cocktail at Fedora's and you'll see what I'm talking about.

Anonymous said...

Sickening. And saying that these high-end restauranteurs are "saving" these historic places is like saying that 7-11 is saving the corner stores it buys out.

Maria M said...

How awful that the very long term and deep rooted nature of a business like the Lenox Lounge should become an instant brand ,so to speak, for the next filthy rich taker. If Robert Deniro wanted to save the Lenox Lounge he could have done so, I suppose by paying the increase, but none of that addresses the freaking insanity of a landlord being able to raise rent from $10,000 to $20,000 in one fell swoop.

laura said...

i do wish de niro paid the rent & helped. but what happend instead is not that terrible. at least there isnt a duane reade or 7/11 or cell phone store. the neighorhood will still retain something human.

Anonymous said...

What really is the most annoying aspect is that Notar clings to the Nobu Brand and name drops De Niro! The real truth is that he was axed from the group and neither of them have anything to do with this club or him!

How pretentious to put his name on the door.
Anyone with any morals and sense would have worked with Alvin as a Joint Venture
a - to keep what was a true piece of Harlems History alive and b - to have someone involved who has jazz running through their veins.

What on earth does Notar know about Jazz?

Unknown said...

It's about greed! It is also about racism. Back in around 2000 or so the New York Times published an article where Mr. Alvin Reed said more blacks should patronize his place and there were too many white people coming to his club. When I read this article it just smelled there was racism or the race card being used again.