Back Fence closing as Bleecker to lose yet another music venue

Photos by Tequila Minsky The Back Fence’s Ernest Scinto said the famed venue’s last night will be Sept. 28.

Photos by Tequila Minsky
The Back Fence’s Ernest Scinto said the famed venue’s last night will be Sept. 28.

BY LINCOLN ANDERSON  |  A mainstay of the Bleecker St. live music scene for more than half a century, the Back Fence will close at the end of this month.

Ernest Scinto, who has run the Back Fence with his brother Rocky since 1958, reported the news to The Villager on Tuesday.

They had till the end of the year on their expiring 12-year lease, but Scinto said they made a deal with the landlord to leave a bit earlier.

Scinto’s dad, Ernest J. Scinto, and uncle, Silvio, who previously had run the Pioneer Nut Club — which featured female impersonators — on the Lower East Side, opened the establishment, at the corner of Thompson St., in 1945. Back then, they called it the Back Fence Bar, but with the explosion of the Greenwich Village folk music scene, they dropped the “bar” from the name and changed their focus to live music. However, they always featured musicians who played covers, as opposed to original tunes.

Lately, Scinto said, “Business had slowed down a bit…and with the economy and everything. On weekends business has been good, but during weeknights, it’s been a struggle,” he said. Meanwhile, the landlord wanted a 75 percent rent increase.

“The rents all over Bleecker St. are going haywire,” he said.

The club’s M.O. was to feature a rotating cast of about 30 different musicians, who play one or two nights per month, again, mostly covers, and mostly acoustic.

Bob Horan played the Back Fence on Tuesday night.

Bob Horan played the Back Fence on Tuesday night.

The club has seen its share of excellent talent over the years, Scinto said, though no one ever struck it big.

“Bob Dylan lived down the street and used to come in and listen to the music,” he said. “Anytime anyone would recognize him, he would take off. No one became famous — but we had a lot of quality musicians. It’s a tough business: You not only have to be talented, you have to be lucky.”

Richie Havens and Tracy Chapman auditioned to play there, and Mary Travers played the club once, doing some covers and mixing in some original tunes before she went on to help form the legendary group Peter Paul and Mary.

The club’s fame is world renowned, and it draws tourists from around the globe.

His son, Ernest, Jr. has taken more of a role in running the club in recent years.

“I’m 83, time for me to retire,” Ernest, Sr. said.

There will be an all-night closing party on Sat., Sept. 28, starting at 8 p.m. and going until 4 a.m. Musicians who have played the club over the years will come back to perform for the final blowout.

The Villager encourages readers to share articles:

Comments are often moderated.

We appreciate your comments and ask that you keep to the subject at hand, refrain from use of profanity and maintain a respectful tone to both the subject at hand and other readers who also post here. We reserve the right to delete your comment.

6 Responses to Back Fence closing as Bleecker to lose yet another music venue

  1. I used to drink there in 1963. I was 15. Drinking age was 18 but I looked older. Loved the crackling of the peanut shells beneath your feet. Sad loss.

  2. I've, been going there for 20 years…. very sad. It was always one of my favorite places in the world to listen to good musicians.

  3. It is very sad. “The rents all over Bleecker St. are going haywire,” he said. Let’s hope we don’t get another yogurt shop or more macaroons.

  4. "Fresh Air" (Trio)

    Our band played there for a long time. Great people to work with. Excellent audiences. Sure going to be missed!

  5. I worked there for years. Regrettably they were forced to close a day early and the big farewell jam scheduled for the 28th (tonight as I write this) will not happen. I'm devastated. It's a terrible personal loss and a big loss for Greenwich Village.

  6. galwayourcityradio

    More sad news. Spent many happy hours there in the between the 70's and 90's. USesd to go hear Bob Horan alot,so nice to see his picture up there. Thanks to the Scinto family for a great space.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.


× 9 = twenty seven

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <strike> <strong>