Soho House has my support, but won’t get Acker Awards

Photo by Clayton Patterson Where Soho House is planned at 137-139 Ludlow St. could be a prime site for an aggressive developer, in the writer’s opinion.

Photo by Clayton Patterson
Where Soho House is planned at 137-139 Ludlow St. could be a prime site for an aggressive developer, in the writer’s opinion.

BY CLAYTON PATTERSON  |  I have finished my exploration of Soho House. It was interesting, and I’m glad that I took the opportunity to check them out.

I see them fitting into this new Lower East Side. No different than the two new luxury hotels going up on Ludlow St. Of course, though — and using this small strip of Ludlow as an example — they are a part of the reason that the Pink Pony closed, Earth Matters closed, Dare Devil Tattoo moved, Max Fish is relocating and Taylor Meade’s apartment became such a valuable piece of property.

If they Soho House does get a liquor license and open, I am sure that their street presence will not be noticeable because they are completely elitist. They do not mix with the street.

My prediction is that with this new form of Sohoization of our community, many of the noisy bars and eateries will be forced out. Those of us who have lived on the L.E.S. have witnessed the past: the East Village/Alphabet City gallery purge, then the eroding away of much of the local, small, independent and mom-and-pop businesses. The only difference between this period and the earlier period is that gentrification is happening at a highly accelerated rate. Gentrification is moving at such a high speed that bicycle racks are popping up all over the place like magic mushrooms after a spring rain.

In my effort to check them out, I heard all the different pitches. I was told that the Soho House in the Meatpacking District got rid of all the suits to make room for more creative types. One of the offers that intrigued me was that they had a program in which an artist who could not afford the heavy, yearly membership fee, which varied between $1,200 for a limited-access membership to $2,400 for full access, could trade creative work for a membership. A membership gave one entry to all of the Soho House clubs worldwide. Sounded positive. Next, the new location on Ludlow St. would need workers. I know creative people who are looking for jobs.

As I started to bring forward names of local artists for membership and jobs, I was told to put that idea on hold since it would be months before the Ludlow place was open. This confused me, since I thought if they liked what the creative person had to offer,  then what difference did time make? And if Soho House liked the artwork, they already had one club in New York City where it could be exhibited. Not the case.

They had offered me a membership in trade for some photos. I asked if I could use this trade to get in another artist if I decided not to join. No go. When I visited the Meatpacking Soho House, I saw very few minorities as guests or workers.

Later, I talked to a couple of well-known Downtown artists who traded art and became Soho House members. They only used the membership  a couple of times because the cost of food and drinks was so high they could not afford to go there. The limited-budget artists never met any of the so-called “right people” who could help them because there were no facilitators. Making introductions is an art form. A connector must be conscious of putting people together who would be able to mutually benefit from the introduction. Otherwise, being in this unaffordable club is not different than going to a high-end gallery opening or an evening at MoMA. All the major players are at these openings, but so what?

However, I was willing to support it because something is going to be there no matter what. The 139 Ludlow St. building, which is in my area, is one of the few that has an architecturally interesting facade. The building is only three-to-four stories high. Since it does not have landmark status and is a double-wide property, for most developers it would not make sense to keep the building as it is. For them, it would be more practical to tear this place down and build a 10-story luxury modern building. Imagine a 7-Eleven in the middle of the block.

One way of showing support was to hold the Acker Awards at this new Soho House location. Alan Kaufman, in San Francisco,  and I, created the bicoastal Acker Awards (www.ackerawards.com) to bring together in one place, and honor, a wide cross-section of creative types who had made a major contribution to the avant-garde. The Acker Awards would give them credibility in the Downtown creative community.

Long story short, the 137-39 Ludlow location is an empty and barren, three-story space with some of the cement floor ripped up — similar to a parking garage with no pillars. Because it had been a printing company it smelled of oil.

The date of the event was set for June 6. The plan was that Soho House would provide the space and the emcees — they mentioned several high-level names, like Susan Sarandon and some famous musicians — take care of the RSVP list by setting up an e-mail account and monitoring the list, get some finger food, nonalcoholic drinks, a DJ, 200 chairs. Fine. As the date was coming closer, the RSVP e-mail address was finally registered, but there was little else. No emcee, nothing.

I was worried. I asked them about this and was scolded — “back off.” They were giving more than $10,000 worth of goods and services (the barren cement space and food) for free, they said. I stepped back and thought it was a joke. But it was no joke. Maybe to them I may look a little eccentric and old-school L.E.S., but that was worth $10,000? Please!

Thankfully, the Angel Orensanz Cultural Foundation, on Norfolk St., stepped up to save the day, and will host the awards on June 6.

My biggest disappointment was not the Soho House people. They behaved as expected. What bothered me was so very few locals attempted to test what was offered. People were just against them. When I wrote articles in favor of the place, nobody stepped forward as an individual. All I got was snide comments using pseudonyms. You have to stand up to be against. You have to know what you are against. Just to be against to be against is a pitiful position.

I still support Soho House. They are the lesser of what could be so much worse. There is no reason for them not to be there. The place is not for me. But then, who cares? This is not all about me. It is going to be something. The world has changed. What is, is what is, and that is all there is. My world has changed. I cannot hate everyone. Life moves on and so do I.

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14 Responses to Soho House has my support, but won’t get Acker Awards

  1. Dale Goodson

    Mr. Patterson's view of accepting Ludlow House proposal seems to be mainly based on the idea of "lesser of two evils". But we have to also keep in mind that though we would all like to see a better and community friendly use made of this space adding a new liquor license to a neighborhood already over saturated with bars is not the way to go. If Ludlow House is approved that will mean this address will have a liquor license where none existed before and will remain there where Ludlow House is successful or not. I have had similar battles on north Avenue A where over saturation has been an ongoing issue for years with landlords claiming the only businesses that could survive needed a liquor license. Not enough daytime foot traffic they said. But residents campaigned against this argument and now on my block (between 12th and 13th) where we had 5 liquor licenses we now have an architect group, a hair salon, a veterinary clinic, a tech shop and an antiques store. Two of the bars remain, but now there is a balance and a once out of control block has reclaimed some quality of life.

    Mr. Patterson admits the artist benefit claimed by Ludlow House is dubious and limited at best. I would say there is not public benefit here- only a public buy-in. It will still be another late night bar bringing additional out of neighborhood crowds to an over saturated block. Maybe not rowdy frat types but additional crowds none the less. We didn't buy the "lesser of two evils" line on Avenue A and neither should the residents of Ludlow Street.

  2. clayton patterson

    Appreciate you putting your name on the comment- respect for that. Yes I am more than familiar with the bait and switch. And yes there are far too many bars. No question. You are lucky to have been able to reclaim your street.

    My area is different from yours. We almost have NO community left in my part of the LES For example: take the street level businesses on Ludlow, from Houston to Delancey. This stretch, other than Katz, has been gutted of all the old businesses. We are the entertainment zone.

    I do not see it as admitting what SoHo House has to offer is dubious- I actually checked out as many of the claims they were making as I could. I gave them every possible chance to do the right thing. In the end, I agree, dubious is the right word.

    SH is not for me. On the other hand, I am not sure what is left here is for me. I am not a bar person. There are very few places to meet people and hang out. We just lost the Children's Magical Garden de Carmen Rubio. What’s left?

  3. Dale Goodson

    Maybe you could get in touch with the Lower Eastside Dwellers- a block association from your neighborhood who still believes there is a community left to defend.

  4. clayton patterson

    I am familiar with what is in my community. But, using the community as an example, if SoHo House gets a liquor license the rules wills have to be changed for them to do so. If SH did get approved for a license it will be seen as a racist move by the community board. Local Hispanics are denied, then SH gets a liquor license? Other than paying people off I do not see how SH can legally get a license.

  5. The changes that have happened on Avenue A are not luck. They are the result of neighbors coming together with the common agenda of stopping the onslaught of nightlife into our community. We don’t always agree on every detail, but we always stand together on this issue. If you keep putting out the message that nothing can be done, then nothing will be done. However if you stand with your neighbors then something will get done. Perhaps there has been a period where folks were not opposing all these applications. At some point people get pushed too far and they then respond. So the onlslaught over the past few years is perhaps that “push too far” moment and now folks are fighting back, something to rejoice in not stand in cynical judgement against in my opinion.

  6. Hi Clayton,

    Thanks for your story..

    Not everyone will have the same point of view and not everyone will take a stand but I am not here to judge anyone on what they did or did not do….but i am here to do something about it.

    I also live on Ludlow and have always enjoyed the character of this part of town. I do feel that without constraints things will get out of control and it may become to late. Since this is how I feel I am taking a stance and I think this is going to be the beginning of a very long relationship between the existing businesses, the new businesses that want to come into the area, the community, SLA and the police.

    I am leading the effort for the LES Dwellers this coming Monday at the CB 3 hearing for liquor licenses and I hope you and other members of our community come out and speak your mind. This is an issue of congestion, pollution, noise and general lack of vision for small part of town. I hope to be part of changing the current trajectory and bringing some thoughtful points to the table.

    It is unfortunate that it has come to this but since we are limited in what we can do as a community since the only real levers we can push is denying licenses to sell liquor.

    Please read the presentation that I have put together with my fellow LES Dwellers members for we are preparing for many long battles in order to get some balance back to the LES.

    Here is what we have to say http://bit.ly/17GzZeA

  7. clayton patterson

    Sounds great– Appreciate you stepping forward- as well as giving your name– I am working at a convention all weekend– no sleep- will try and read next week. Maybe at some point we can meet- I know some life long Hispanics on the block who may very well be interested in connecting with you From what I see– SoHo House does not have much of a diverse membership.

    One Hispanic business offered to let SH use their location to collect signature and SH never followed up on the offer. SH actions do not measure up with the talk,. thx cp

  8. CP, I still respect you, but as a writer I know that not every writing should be published. Every now and then you just need to file one in a drawer and move on. This post of yours seems like one of those, and I respect you a lil' less for not doing so. I have followed this issue. I've read the comments you've received, and added my own. Not all were great, but they were definitely not, "All I got was snide comments…". There was much opposition to your side and definite pushback, but there was also a lot of constructive disagreement. With this post of yours here, not only have you gone back on much of your early SH favoritism, but you've also misrepresented the dialogue. And that's too bad. (cont…)

    • (cont…) And yet again, with this post, you’ve received some good comments, esp’ Dale’s report on how a neighborhood, even in this area can maintain its diversity, so to continue fear mongering others with what worse will come along if not SH, is just not credible. And when you complain that others are not doing the job of resistance, at least not in the way that you want it done, you are insulting a great many people who are working hard for this neighborhood, who do attend mind-numbing SLA committee meetings, and who put in countless hours organizing their neighbors. That’s just not right. (cont…)

      • (cont…) For me this issue has never been about what goes on inside SH, but about the mushroom effect that it would have – encouraging other lesser clubs to want to set up shop nearby. I don’t need to “test” anything. That’s how a neighborhood gets changed. One venue alone is never the problem, but you’ve only ever wanted to see this issue in a single microcosm. I appreciate your experience with SH; with this post you’ve only confirmed by belief that it doesn’t belong in the LES. You sound burned by them, and at the same time, angry at the rest of us for allowing the neighborhood to change so much. You can say, “You have to stand up to be against.” But no one is against you. We like you. We know what we’re against – liquor licenses. Introducing ourselves to you does nothing about that.

        • clayton patterson

          Guest- I wrote that piece because I felt I needed to follow up on what I found out over time. In the end SoHO House is not for me. I agree that the dialogue both for and against was constructive. And I appreciate your comments about those who went to the mind numbing SLA meetings and all the hours of organizing.
          My problem with this form of resistance and organizing is, in my experience, it did not work. I gave up following that path.
          For example: getting banned from the 7th Precinct Council meetings for asking too many questions related to all the illegal behavior associated with new bars (1998). And BTW- Don West the head of the 7th Council meetings is a stanch defender of all the bars in our area event though he lives below Delancey. His conflict with Miller, the last 7th precinct commander, was Miller’s push to go after troubled bars like Piano’s. 2)in 1991 when Joel Myers and I sued the city to stop them from removing Eng. 17 from the Pitt Street firehouse (Fort Pitt) it became clear that all the politicians were in favor of the removable. The politician’s public face was save Eng. 17- in the background they killed our case. 3) 2013 in the Taylor Mead struggle Chin’s office said the family did not want to make the struggle public. Seemed odd to me as there was no reason to keep it private. Niece told me she was unaware of this position. If the struggle was not public we would have lost. Certainly the landlords wanted to stop the public exposure of what they were doing to Taylor. They were very much afraid of John Penely’s Camp Out Protest. The company would not negotiate if the protest was going to take place. In the end we won. Heard nothing from Chin’s office.
          Maybe I am too cynical, but my experience is, politicians follow the money and the power. Hooray for me and to heck with you. And lots of rah, rah rah threw in the mix. Unless one has a big stick one usually loses. Let us see what Chin does with the Children’s Magical Garden. Serge Hoyda, the property owner, has stated, he will exchange this lot for a comparable lot. Will Chin negotiate or will the community lose it all? I doubt the community will be given another vacant lot. Next we shall see if SoHo House gets a liquor license or not. My experience has been eventually most bar owners with money and power prevail; un less a politician really goes to bat for the community. Does anyone really believe Chin or Silver will go to battle against SoHo House?

          But no matter what, or what I say, carry on the battle in whatever way works for you. Keep the Faith- the Struggle Never Ends. And fear not- I love and respect the fact that you are carrying on. I am sorry if I disappoint you. But let your disappointment in me make you stronger- Give-um Hell-

  9. Jennie Baker

    So happy that Soho House got voted down by CB3! Let the LES neighborhood triumph over this bar-crap!

  10. clayton patterson

    Guest a follow up– I have no idea why Lincoln put this old article into the new East Villager. For those involved in this struggle we have gone through this debate. It is no longer news. CB 3 rejected the SoHo House license. The conflict is now in the hands of the SLA. And, for me, at this point in time, SH is rather incidental to my position in this whole struggle.

    My fear is the impact of the 2 new mega-story luxury hotels going up on Ludlow. These 2 new take over giants are a real threat to what was before. The shadows they will cast- the foot and vehicle traffic that will clog the streets- the influence on the price of everything connected to this end of town- the evictions- and all the other problems connected to over saturating our area with new money.

    This new/next generation of people taking over our community have no connection to our community. I tell people watch the House Wives shows on TV. These are the kinds of people taking over our community. Did the New Museum or SoHo House, help save Taylor? No! I am almost over the whole thing- here is another version of the House Wives and the mentality of the people taking over our community http://www.sfbg.com/politics/2013/05/21/young-cre

  11. So happy that Soho House got voted down by CB3! Let the LES neighborhood triumph over this bar-crap!

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