INSIDE GOING OUT with Steve Lewis
LIT LOUNGE WILL CLOSE
I haven't written in awhile. That's a long story that I'll leave for another day. In short, my long hiatus was spent building a hotel in glorious Thailand and building Good Room, a club in Greenpoint. New York Magazine said in its "Best Of" issue that Good Room was the best club in NYC and why should I argue with them? For those who don't know me, I used to be Steve Lewis, a dude that ran fabulous clubs in an ancient era. Nowadays, I design them, write about them and even DJ a bit of Rock and Roll when it's called for. The last couple months have been spent getting my movie made and designing Valentine, a Brooklyn eatery that will knock your socks off. This new column, blog, or whatever you might want to call it will try to give you an insiders look at whats happening in NYC nightlife. The openings, the closings, the players and the reasons to be cheerful will be the meat and potatoes of my endeavors. I'll try not to pull any punches and I'll lighten up on the cliches. So, here we go.
Lit Lounge, an East Village mainstay for 14 years, will finally close it's doors. The exact date is unclear, but it will happen according to co-owner Erik Foss within "the next 2 months.” The good news is that will be pretty close to the time a new Lit is expected to open in Bushwick. The move is yet another nail in the coffin for Manhattan counter culture and another reason to live in the Bushwick / Greenpoint / Williamsburg nexus that has become the cultural cauldron of New York. Manhattan still has some moves but what we once called "downtown" is mostly on the other side of the river. For many years, Lit was my favorite haunt. It was a dive club with 2 floors of DJ’s and live music in the basement. The Fuse Gallery in the back of the joint hosted the hippest art shows. I had my birthday there a few times and DJed often at the annual anniversary bash. Over the years the "in" crowd moved out east to Brooklyn where everything was happening. Lit still had its moments but they became fewer and father between. Everyone was elsewhere and the new crowd of NYU kids and slumming yuppies was a turn off to the family atmosphere as well as proprietors Erik Foss and David Schwartz. Now there is great hope. The place is moving to catch up with its crowd. We will all go to the closing night parties and there will be a certain amount of nostalgia attached but the new Lit on McKibbin in Bushwick holds the promise of the future. Aaron Pierce, founder of the recently closed Trash Bar, is joining the team. I caught up with co-owners Erik Foss and David Schwartz and asked them all about it.
Steve Lewis: Who blew you away when they walked in the door and)who blew you away when the played the room?
Erik Foss: That list is long, but the top of my head: Steve Bushemi, Gene Simmons, Elliot Smith last live performance in NYC, Mike Myers, Bill Murray, the entire cast of the new Star Trek movie with Jeremy Renner, Mos Def, Def Tones, Maxwell (regular), Everlast of House of Pain (regular), Lance Armstrong, Mathew McConaughey, Florence from Florence and the Machine, Peter Murphy, Debbie Harry, The Strokes (regulars), Jack Black, Sean White (Olympic gold winner), Wu-tang Clan, Slayer, Jimmy Fallon (regular), Norman Redus (regular), Olson twins (regulars), Whoopi Goldberg, Winona Ryder, Antonio Banderas, Kate Moss, Lyndsey Lohan (regular), H.R. Giger, Elvis Costello, Sebastian Bach, James Gandolfini, Heath Ledger, Boy George (regular), Bjork (regular), Avril Lavigne, Kelly Osborn (regular), Danny Masterson, entire cast of Jack Ass (Johnny Knoxville and Steve O). the real life "Dude" that the Big Lebowsky was based on, GWAR, Patty Smith, Nick Cave, George Bush's daughters, Natasha Lyonne (regular), Chloe Sevigny (regular), Steve Nash (Pheonix Suns), DJ Kool Herc, Kevin Shields (singer for My Bloody Valentine), Ron Jeremy, Paul Sevigny, Natas Kaupas (pro skateboarder), Kirsten Dunst (regular), Sean Avery (regular), Dangermouse, Diplo (regular), Alexandra Richards, Zoe Bonham (DJedd for us), Julien Stranger (pro skater)
David Schwartz: Joe Coleman, the famous oddities miniature painter, initially was one of many who I really was excited about when he showed up with his wife Whitney Ward. Some others include H. R. Giger and Lou Reed. The Melvins were my favorite musical guest who played our intimate stage in cellar.
Steve Lewis: What it was like when you opened 14 years ago?
David Schwartz: Lit was pure goosebumps for me early on. Initially, it was just a place where people could drink and the partners could fund other artists. The beginning was just beyond belief.
Erik Foss: It was magic, so many young beautiful creative people. Every one was there and it lasted for waaaay longer than any one would have ever expected. We had a gallery, a music venue, DJs and alcohol, it was the only thing of its kind at the time really. Right after 911 people needed Lit / Fuse. We provided a home for downtown culture and if you were cool and creative you were welcome. Pre-selfie, pre-social media, pre-Internet Dating - those days are gone. Life goes on and we all evolve.
Steve Lewis: How was it named Lit?
David Schwartz: The gallery was named Fuse first and then the bar seemed logical to be called Lit since the space burned twice in previous ten years. Thus Lit and Fuse.
Steve Lewis: What was the primary reason for closing and moving shop to Bushwick?
Erik Foss: The new East Village crowd and the flight of the creative types to creative Brooklyn . It was inevitable. NYC is an ever changing animal. I am just glad that I got to be here before downtown changed into what it is now.
David Schwartz: Ehh, not happy with the newbies in the East Village. Millenials don’t go out and the artistic ones left for Brooklyn digs 4 yrs ago.
Steve Lewis: Will you take anything from there to the new space ie a cash register or piece of the place?
Erik Foss: We will take certain fixtures like some permanent art, the stickered mirror behind the bar, and probably the sound equipment .
David Schwartz: I will rip off a heavily tagged wall to reveal a full drunken doze green drawing that is 5 feet by 4 feet.
Steve Lewis: Tell me about the new space and the cafe .
Erik Foss: The cafe has been been open for over a year now. It is called Currant Cafe (248 McKibbin Street, currantcafe.com). The club is in the basement and is finished. We are awaiting approval of plans and unfortunately that is a part of opening a new place. The club is two rooms with a DJ booth, bar and bathrooms. The ceilings are 17 feet tall and we designed it ourselves. Aaron Pierce (founder of Trash Bar) is a new addition to the Lit Family and will be an awesome edition at that - he and I tended bar at Odessa in the 90's and pretty much came up together. Lit Bk could open next week or in 3 months, it's really a mystery as we have no real control of this last step.
David Schwartz: We are super excited about the new space. Cafe food, coffee, pastries, a reclaimed feel and eventually a liquor license. The bar is on one one side with a reclaimed cigar bar that is absolutely stunning. As with the original Lit, Brooklyn was physically built by partners. The other side has a dark dance floor with second floor DJ booth and a cage for gogo dancers.
Steve Lewis: Do you spend less time at the old Lit? Do you still love it or is it more nostalgic. I told you recently that sometimes you just to have to let go - move on let and them pass on with relationshipsm dogs and certainly bars. How hard is it to let go?
Erik Foss: I do still love it. It's so endless
David Schwartz: I let go of Lit a few yrs ago when my wife Mindy and I got sober.
Steve Lewis: How has Erik Foss changed over the last 14 years?
Erik Foss: Besides a bunch of tattoos, a couple broken hearts, some broken bones and broken teeth and a lot of fallen soldiers, I am in my early 40's now and my art career is pretty serious and has taken me around the world . Ive met so many amazing people through having Lit / Fuse in my life. Overall I am so very grateful that I had the opportunity to have this magical place for so many years and got to connect and help thousands. It will be an amazing book / movie.
Steve Lewis: What will be the legacy of Lit. Give me a sentence that sums it up.
Erik Foss: Lit was a cultural center during the turn of the century in NYC. I would like to add that people make a place like Lit / Fuse. I would like to thank the patrons, staff, artists, musicians, and every one that helped us along the way . Without all these people our dream wouldn't have happened. It was all worth it in the end.
David Schwartz: The legacy of Lit will be where very creative types met other very creative types and did very bad things.