Volume 81, Number 8 | July 21- 27, 2011
West and East Village, Chelsea, Soho, Noho, Little Italy, Chinatown and Lower East Side, Since 1933


Photos by Clayton Patterson

The Tangiers Blues Band performed at John Varvatos’s Bowery boutique last Thursday evening, featuring vocalist King, Danny Clinch on harmonica and Chris Scianni on guitar, above.

Clayton's Page

Why Varvatos was the best person to take over CBGB

When John Varvatos opened his clothing boutique in the iconic former CBGB space in April 2008, he didn’t win many friends in the neighborhood, at least not at first. The loss of Hilly Krystal’s legendary punk-rock mecca at 315 Bowery was seen as virtually the last nail in the coffin in the neighborhood’s gentrification. Amid the anti-Varvatos backlash, Lower East Side documentarian Clayton Patterson decided to meet the fashion designer and see for himself what he was like. “In the beginning, we had our differences,” Patterson said. But after a while, he said, he realized, “He was trying to do the right thing. He took over CBGB’s, but he really has a love for music. ... I realized he was the best person to take over the space.” Varvatos occasionally hosts free rock shows at the boutique. Performances have featured the likes of local luminaries Handsome Dick Manitoba and Jesse Malin and the St. Mark’s Social, as well as acts like Axl Rose and Guns N’ Roses. Usually, Patterson said, the audiences are “friends of the band” who somehow find out about the free shows. “You can’t just be against everything,” the documentarian said. “If something comes in and they’re contributing to the neighborhood, they’re decent, I’m O.K. with that. I don’t want to be a hater — it’s an adjustment to the new neighborhood. Would I rather have Varvatos, or a steakhouse where I have to pay $50 for a steak?”

Lincoln Anderson

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