Goodnight Arlo: A Going Out of Business Edition
“CLOSED! Man, all the places I love to hang out have closed over the past few years, especially classy coffee shops where I could sit for hours and read while only ordering a $2 coffee. Oooooh, okay, maybe THAT’s why they’re closing. Hmmm. It’s just sad when these places go. It’s just so sudden, like when a healthy 35 year old drops dead from a heart attack and you think, “What!? I just saw him last week and he was fine!” Dear NYC, I would like some sort of prep time to mourn the passing of my favorite places. Thanks”
“Not worth it. $5 and a bag search to gain entry. Upstairs was a seemingly normal crowded bar scene at midnight on a saturday night. Still, we managed to score a corner table with some chairs to sit at and I was feeling it. Downstairs? Hot mess. Literally a hot, packed, sweaty mess. So crowded it was impossible to dance without touching any less than 3 other humans at any given time. I think they tried to disguise the grime with smoke machines. And I agree with others, two ladies’ bathroom stalls just doesn’t cut it. Plus I think I suffered permanent hearing loss – the music was painfully loud.”
Two random reviews of Arlo & Esme on Yelp.com
Maybe you show your ID or walk right in with nothing but a handshake and small talk, quickly finding a space near the bar. You look for a familiar face, a friend, a bartender that just happens to be a friend, start a conversation or fall right into one. Order a drink, then another one, and another one till it’s time to work the crowd like the riot police on the way to the bathroom. You wait and find an open stall. You go in alone or someone accompanies you. They watch you piss while they do a bump off your coke and you return the favor or talking until you can write a Wikipedia page on the subject of your slurred curiosities. Maybe you really, really, just have to pee like normal people. You steal a kiss, maybe a little more. Or you’re just alone and nothing could be better.
You leave your name on the bathroom wall or cross out someone else’s You fix yourself up in the mirror, tending to your outfit like a dry cleaner or you leaving without washing your hands or tipping the apathetic bathroom attendant. Your friend leaves an empty condom wrapper, a licked cocaine bag, or a used tampon on the bathroom floor mixed with toilet paper and urine along with your lukewarm and expensive drink. You gossip about every aspect of your shared lives following each sip like an alcoholic Speak & Spell.
You ask the DJ to play a song that he’ll play long after you’re gone or if you’re lucky it’s your iPod or a well stacked jukebox playing childhood nostalgia through a JBL speaker. It sounds like shit, everything sounds fucking great. You dance like you’re performing for an imaginary audience in your bedroom but you’re on the dance floor and everyone is looking. Fuck everybody, or you try too. You puke your entire night out over the sink and half the toilet. You don’t flush. You might tip the bathroom attendant now or run out in a cloak of shame and apologies.
You might be there with your lover. You might be cheating on your lover. You might be looking for a new lover. You go back and dance without abandon or stand near a wall and watch time go by, one awkward jerk to a song you don’t like, after another. You might spill your drink. You might spill your drink and try to fight whoever bumped into you. Maybe that drink thrown at your for being a little too aggressive or over enthusiastic. You might be kicked out for the night or banned for the life of the bar owners memory.
You love this bar. You fucking hate this bar and wonder why your freakish co-workers and friends invite you here. Who wears a button down to a bar? Who wears neon to a lounge?? Who wears Keds to a club??? Maybe you’ll have your birthday here, your last night in New York City or maybe you’ll never come back and leave a malicious review on Yelp or some other corner of the internet for cowards. It’s amazing what a space with some alcohol can inspire.
Welcome to your night at the local bar/ lounge/ club hybrid in downtown New York City, a spring-board for all of your liquid dreams and vomited nightmares.
“Arlo & Esme, aka Chad and Becky’s Birthday Bonanza, aka the greatest lil shit show on earth, aka the LOWER EAST SIDE den of SIN. The best and worst of times!”
DJ Project Matt
“August 9th 2008. Soulwax afterparty with 2 Many DJs spinning and Midnight Juggernauts = DJ super bowl with pretty much everyone and their mother there.”
Alex English. Girls & Boys, GBH
Ever wonder what a bar owner looks at when deciding on a potential space? If it the access to transportation or its proximity to other bars and restaurants? What about the landlords? How tolerant are the neighbors and how co-operative with the local fire marshal be? Building codes, food and health inspections; is the bar back using gloves to cut the lemons and limes? How dry and clean are your storage facilities? How do you keep a basement in New York City rat free? Speaking about rats what about the crooked police sergeant and small time mobsters hawking “fire insurance” and the neighborhood thugs who haven’t yet been moved out by gentrification upset that your bar doesn’t make an “Incredible Hulk” or stock Hennessey? What about the community board that challenges you because you stock Hennessey or the task force that suggest you to remove it from your bar because of the element it attracts?
Sometimes you don’t have enough envelopes to pay everyone off and all they see is a packed weekend ignoring the other 5 days when the bar is only frequented by 3 people stealing your WiFi. The same neighbor that calls the cops on you because the music is too loud now wants special treatment when they come in for a drink. Your bouncers aren’t familiar with your crowd anymore and treat everyone like shit and employ admittance policies that other industries would describe as purely racist except its minorities judging other minorities. You hire a promoter that wants more money for the tour bus of people who would have come to your bar anyway with or without him, god forbid he doesn’t have a table ready. And what do you tell the drug dealer who gave you a free bump once and now acts like he invested in your bar?
Your speakers aren’t good enough; your DJ booth doesn’t have a Serato set up and now all of your bartenders need food preparation licenses. On top of it all you want to do is be in love but what woman or man in their right mind would trust someone who works in a bar, let alone own one? Your mind is already an incomplete crossword puzzle and now you have the endless drunk conversation, one after the other like a universe crushing meteor shower on repeat. One problem or ill-fated idea after another like your liquor license came with a degree in therapeutic psychiatry. Everyone is shouting things that you can’t un-hear or leave in the sink with the Sanitabs. And then you have your employee’s; everyone wants more for less and no one wants to unclog the toilet or mop up the vomit. You scream, you throw stuff, fire and re-hire then lock up and go home, head dizzy from the whiskey you need to help you cope with it all.
And then it happens. You have to close your bar for good. Whether it’s a land lord/ tenant dispute, being buried alive in fines, or there’s no more money to be made in a stalled economy, you have to shut your doors. You have to sell your inventory and clear out the space in a time only 5 Superman’s can accomplish. Your patrons are sad to see you go while they read the New York magazine looking for the next hot spot. Your employees look at you like you didn’t fight hard enough for them and you’ve abandoned them to an unforgivable job market. Creditors fly over your dying business like ambulance chasing lawyers hover over a police scanner. That’s it. Fuck it all to hell you’re done right? This unanticipated departure from the daily purgatory that is running a bar is the best thing that’s ever happened to you huh? But where’s the confetti? Where’s the “I’m free” banister you’ve dreamed of unfolding while telling everyone to “SUCK IT!!!”?
There is none.
Somewhere along the line the people you have colorfully described as “scumbags” have now become your family and the place you’ve anointed as a “money pit” or a “shit hole in a wall” has become your home.
And now it’s gone.
“What I’ve loved about Arlo from early on was the great atmosphere and community feeling amongst people who worked there. It wasn’t a punch the clock type of gig—we would all stay and chill long into the afterhours because we enjoyed the space and the company. Gage did a great job putting the team together and worked hard to make the venue successful. It was fun to be a part of it, play some music, meet some great people. I feel sad knowing we can’t go back.”
DJ Johnny Cocco
Gone are the bar stools where you fell in love with that one perfect girl after she drunkenly slipped and that gave you the confidence to finally approach her. Gone are the bar tabs that poured out that one shot that opened you up and either you gained a new friend, or lost an old one. Gone are the lights that saved you from going home with that one guy who looked cute in the dark but when last call came around you knew you had way too much and went home alone. The couches you stood on to dance to the hottest rap song of the moment with rips in the leather from high heels, all liquidated and gone. The jokes with the beer delivery guy or the family shots with all your employees at the end of a stressful and very successful shift, now nothing but a few flyers and moments trapped in a digital camera or a cell phone. The life created in that space will be nothing but stories you’ll tell in another bar in another time with some other bartender serving you while the bar owner tries to fight off the impending 4am last call every business has to face.
Good night Arlo.
“I miss it everyday. Working for the best guy in the world with my best friends. If you didn’t respect the space you were forcefully removed, and remembered, and neve allowed back. It was a second home for everyone on the block and all of our friends and family.”
Brittany Saliwanchik, Bartender and Friend. Arlo & Esme.