Wednesday, June 6, 2018

Caffe Vivaldi


On their website, the folks at Caffe Vivaldi write:

"With heavy hearts we announce the upcoming closure of Caffe Vivaldi and the conclusion of our 35-year run at this magical room on 32 Jones Street in our beloved West Village."

Opened in 1983, Vivaldi has been fighting to stay in business for several years now.

Back in 2011, Vivaldi was being forced to close by a tripled rent hike from their landlord, the infamous Steve Croman. They survived and got a new lease, but the struggles continued. In 2016, they reported landlord harassment.

This April, Vivaldi owner Ishrat Ansari wrote on the site's blog about his struggles:

"My untimely stroke occurred two weeks before a crucial court hearing about the Caffe’s future—that has continued to drag on to the present. In 2011, my tormentor, Steven Croman, became the new owner of the building where Caffe Vivaldi resides. From the beginning, his conduct has been belligerent and illegal, unilaterally breaking the renewed lease, which commenced on January 1, 2012, that I signed with him for the Caffe Vivaldi space, and treating me with dismissive contempt. My emotional distress reached its most damaging state as Mr. Croman’s conduct towards me rose further and further above the law. The menace that Mr. Croman continues to pose threatens to destroy 35 years of history nurtured by Caffe Vivaldi in the West Village... I want to let you all know that Mr. Croman, a convicted felon, is taking us to court again, and we might be forced to close our doors."

Mr. Croman was released from prison last week. He served eight months of a one-year jail sentence.

Vivaldi's fight has come to an end.

They explain: "our legal and financial difficulties with our landlord came to a head this spring. To continue to fight would be self-destructive in many, many ways for the business and for all of us. Because of these extenuating circumstances, we will be closing our doors for the final time on the evening of June 23."

The live music cafe has been featured in Woody Allen and Al Pacino films, and their old wooden chairs have seated Andy Warhol, Bette Midler, John Cusack, Rob Reiner, Joseph Brodsky and many neighborhood folks and other New Yorkers.

You can share your Vivaldi story here.


tracey hastings said...

It is a heartbreaking testimony to the landlord-tenant landscape slowly creeping like a vaporous poison of greed under the; what should be sanctuary we all paid dearly for or are still paying dearly for to be able to live in the best city in the world. The "big guy", the "haves" getting fatter like the gluttonous whores that they have become make the regular guy feel incredibly small at times like this. The people make the city but alas it has come to this being the common tale of a New Yorker reporting yet again with redundancy and ever-increasing rapidity abuses such as this. Sadly this bastion is certainly not the last but a meaningful loss for many. Cafe Vivaldi like my favorite piece, The Four Seasons will take many a season to process. Such a fucking drag.

Brian said...

Steve Croman is the personification of evil. No legal or ethical standards, willing to ruin lives by taking advantage in weakness of the law enforcement and judicial system. Ruining the lives of decent hardworking community members to the detriment of society just to line his pockets. Is he mentally ill or demented? 8 months in prison was not enough.

Unknown said...

I played my very first concert at Caffè Vivaldi. In 2005, i was about to graduate NYU and i was trying to find a location to present something like a senior recital, somewhere I could celebrate the culmination of my music studies. There was no place available on campus. Of all the real estate NYU owned in the city (and it owned the most — second only to the Catholic Church), i did not have access to it. My college advisor, guitarist Bill Raynor, suggested a little venue in the west village where he performed regularly. Though i had been in NYC four years, i had never been there. But it had a grand piano, a cool classy vibe, and I could put on whatever kind of show I wanted. Ishrat Ansari, the owner, took a chance on me and gave me 2 prime weekend slots, a Friday evening and a Saturday afternoon. As i stepped up to the mic to thank a room full of all my friends and family for attending my 2nd and final show, Ishrat came up behind me - though we had never met - and over my shoulder told me to invite the crowd to my next show. “But i don’t have one.” “Sure you do. Tell them to come back next month for your next show at Caffe Vivaldi.” and that’s how i got my second gig.

Over the next few years, Caffe Vivaldi was the place i experimented with my songwriting and got experience performing. Caffe Vivaldi was the place i could bring on different musicians, build a band and a repertoire, and invite friends and special guests to sing with me. i got to perform on my own terms and figure out the kind of music i wanted to make. i got to play a beautiful grand piano by a fireplace and eat great cheesecake and discover how many glasses of wine it took before my stage banter became incoherent (three). Caffe Vivaldi always opened its doors to me and gave me a chance. It gave me a chance to pursue a career making music, and I don’t know where I would be without it.

Vivaldi never had the industry reputation of a venue like Rockwood Music Hall, though they were roughly the same size. But this ensured that Caffe Vivaldi remained one of the rarest of places in the city - a place you could reliably go any night of the week and hear live acoustic music in an intimate setting for no cover, no matter how old you were. I will always remember the Caffe Vivaldi open mic as one of my favorites. The level of talent that showcased there raised the bar for other songwriter open mics, and the community that gathered there always felt familial - which was also a really unusual feeling to feel in New York. and it was all by design.

In 2012, one of my best friends from college died suddenly and unexpectedly at the age of 28. He passed away at home in Texas and many of us in NYC were unable to attend the funeral. But we wanted to remember him and celebrate him. Once again, Caffe Vivaldi opened its doors. For one Friday evening, the entire establishment was ours. We were given a place to grieve and remember our friend from the chairs and bar stools where he had once sat, to tell stories and laugh across tables where he had laughed, to sing and play the piano where he had once listened and cheered us on. That night, Caffe Vivaldi was there for us, no questions asked. I will never forget that bit of kindness.

There are ghosts at Caffe Vivaldi. It’s not just the ghosts of the composers whose framed pictures line the walls. It’s the ghosts of the notes that were played and the songs that were first performed there. You can feel it reverberate in the creaky wood floor. When Vivaldi closes its doors for the last time at the end of this month, New York will be losing a member of the family, a dear friend, and a little bit of its soul. We may not be able to find another place like it. But I hope we try.

Goodnight, Vivaldi. - Avi Wisnia

Brian said...

I lived around the block from this place for about 3 years in the 90s. I thought it was a really old place, surprised to see it is only 35 years old. Did not go there very often but it was lovely. Nowadays there just are not places like this. The economics are hard enough. But Steve Croman's involvement is just heartbreaking. Something should be done about him and his many followers in the real estate management business that are literally (not virtually or figuratively) killing the East and West Village as well as the LES.