The pandemic’s ongoing devastation is taking its toll on local and independently-owned businesses, including popular spots that seemed to rebound when New York reopened in June.
Franklin Street’s latest casualty, Magazine Bar (130 Franklin St.), the seemingly perpetually packed cocktail bar recently known for frozen drinks and Cajun-style bar food, announced that it will pour its last drink at the end of September.
“Dear Friends, It is with a very heavy heart we have to announce that Magazine will be closing at its current location at the end of the month. 7 months of covid and an uncooperative landlord has made it impossible for us to continue,” Magazine’s owners wrote on Instagram on September 12. “It has been a pleasure to serve such a vibrant community and to be the scene of so many good times. Please come in for a last drink. We would love to see you! Wishing you all the best in these tough times. Thank you for your business and your support.”
“We had no desire to [close]”, but our bar was for the most part a fun party spot dependent on crowds and good times,” co-founder Jeremy Willis told Greenpointers. “This has been illegal for the last 7 months. From the beginning of the pandemic, we tried to reach a financial compromise with the landlord but in the end we were unable to do so. We received loans and put them to good use, transforming the place into a restaurant, establishing a to go program, and expanding our merchandising but sadly, it wasn’t enough. It’s a real bummer as the place had been a big success before the lockdown.”
Magazine Bar opened in the former space of Shayz Lounge in April 2019, and was a highly anticipated, and soon beloved community hub, serving free spicy popcorn with drinks and often hosting DJs on weekends. The quirky aesthetic, featuring decor including a Rosie O’Donnell and the post-pandemic Social Distancing Dancing Chicken, made the spot one-of-a-kind.
Magazine was co-founded on the premise of offering a fun time and unpretentious service, by partners Matt Wang (Candy Bar in Detroit), Julian Brizzi (Rucola, Grand Army, Celestine), John Russell, a co-founder of Real Estate Fine Art, and Willis, who lived above the bar for 12 years and is a co-founder of Greenpoint’s Real Estate Fine Art gallery and is also the vocalist/guitarist in the band The Listeners.
Financially, Magazine could not continue the its high operating costs amidst a pandemic. “We had hoped the landlord would allow us to open our books to him and work out a rent adjustment based on sales until the pandemic restrictions were over but he was not interested,” Willis said. “We reopened strong, but folks don’t have as much disposable income now and after a time the forgivable PPP loan money we used to pay our staff ran out. The other loans we received have to be paid back, we were spending them quickly, and we just couldn’t see doing that while paying a high rent. Especially while being unable to keep late hours or pack the place.”
The 1,100-square-foot soon-to-be-vacant space at 130 Franklin Street is now currently for lease, with new tenants permitted to move in starting this November. The rent is listed at $102,300 per year (that’s $8,525 per month), plus “a small key fee, which can be paid in installments,” according to the listing.
A 16 year veteran of Greenpoint, Willis is hoping to find a larger space and reopen Magazine in the area at some point. Ideally, the space would be large enough to book bands, host events and DJS. “I have felt that creating a space for culture and fun in my neighborhood was something I could do to give back and keep the place vital,” Willis said. “Sadly, I have watched many amazing venues in the area get wiped away by landlord and developer greed. I don’t think that people realize or care that high rents make it impossible for art and culture to thrive.”
For now, Willis and his partners, will still be supporting the community with fun times at their new Williamsburg bar, Nicky’s Unisex.