Pieces' West Village Lease Extended After Long Battle; Owner Still Planning Additional Hell’s Kitchen Bar
(Eric Einstein at a State Liquor Authority subcommittee this summer. Via DNAInfo.com)
In New York’s whirlwind nightlife scene, many bars and clubs often run their course in one or two years—or less. But Pieces, a West Village watering hole that's been around for an amazing 19 years and was slated to close this Spring, will officially make it past the two decade mark in 2012. In an exclusive interview with Next Magazine, owner and manager Eric Einstein tells us that the bar has a new lease on life. Literally.
“We now have a multi-year lease from the building's owners,” said Einstein, who has been running the bar since 2005. “I wanted to get the word out that we’re open and not going anywhere.”
This news is the latest and most surprising twist in what's been quite a drama-filled year for Pieces. Last year, Einstein was told by the owners of 8 Christopher Street that they were not renewing the bar's lease and that it's days were numbered. They wanted to do a full-scale renovation of the three-story building, turning the upstairs floors into high-end apartments and the bar into upscale retail. So Einstein made plans to relocate Pieces and fortunately found a spot just across Sixth Avenue. After a number of contentious Community Board meetings, he finally got a liquor license, only to have the owners of that space change their mind and go with a higher bidder (a Sushi restaurant). After that disaster, Einstein’s decided he would try and move Pieces uptown.
“I started looking in Hell’s Kitchen and found a space on 10th Ave between 47th and 48th,” he recalled. “The community approval process up there was much easier.” Even now, with it’s new lease, Pieces will remain in the West Village for the time being while Einstein will open a yet-unamed bar in the new space in midtown. “It’ll have a different name. I just don’t know what yet,” he told us. “But I want it to be neighbor-hoody and have that same friendly feel as Pieces does.”
When Pieces first opened in 1992, the original owner Bob Etsey decided he wanted to do something different. He made the bar’s interior a bit theatrical with décor that was over-the-top, and he featured a lineup of new talent and unusual shows. In fact, they claim to have had the first Karaoke night at a gay bar starting way back in 1993. Ever since then, Pieces has been a bit of an oddball in terms of gay nightlife. “It’s sort of like a gay bar from the Midwest that got plopped into the city,” said Einstein, laughing. “I’ve often heard the joke that it’s a great bar but how did you get it through the Holland tunnel!”
When the original plan to close and relocate was announced in the Spring, hundreds of the bar's regular patrons and gay supporters showed up at the community board meetings to make sure Pieces had a new home. "I was moved by the outpouring of support from the gay community,” he recalled. “It was pretty impressive to see more than 100 people show up to support a bar.” Apparently, the owners of the building took notice of the outpouring of support for the little gay bar that could and, in the end, decided to let it stay while postponing their renovations for a few more years.
Einstein says he’s relieved that the drama of the last 12 months is behind him. But now he has a lot of work ahead of him too. “I want to spruce the place up a bit,” he says about some planned cosmetic changes to the existing Pieces. “Now I’ve got two big projects: building out the new bar uptown and revitalizing Pieces downtown."