We stopped by to talk with Jim Chu, owner of White Rabbit (formerly Den of Thieves and Idlewild) on Houston Street, as he was preparing to transition his 18-year-old bar and lounge into a day-time cafe and gallery with collaborative work space available for small groups to use as they wish – for developing new work, artistic projects or entrepreneurial endeavors of any sort.
Chu grew up on the Lower East Side and was running bars and clubs when the music and fashion scene was just getting hot down here. He regaled us with some great stories about DJ Spooky (Paul Miller) and Brian Eno. Obviously things have changed over the years and rents have gone up.
Since the scene is not what it used to be, Chu thought about selling the space but had a change of heart after thinking about new possibilities. “A lot of people who were in the East Village and in New York (back in the day) reminisce about it,” he said, “They say, ‘oh I miss the good old days,’ but (they’re) not doing anything to foster what’s happening now.”
He has decided to transform White Rabbit and open it up for collaborative day-time adventures. He’s brought in a friend, Rob Aloia, to share his pop up art shows featuring local artists old and new, and La Colombe coffee as part of the new cafe. Along with Balthazar pastries and a few simple sandwiches, he says the team hopes “to bring the charm of a great local place to the utility of a large convenient space on Houston Street.”
As far as offering up the space to the community, Chu says it’s an open invitation. There will be something like a Google calendar for everyone to use. “If you’ve got a project we’ll give you X amount of time, with a time limit on it, and then get you out of here, get you into an office or complete your project,” he said.
White Rabbit Coffee will officially open on June 1st, but they are already up and running: 8 a.m. – 5 p.m. during the week, and 9 a.m. – 5 p.m. on the weekends, followed by happy hour and regular bar service. They are located at 145 Houston St., between Eldridge and Forsyth.