Tonight’s the night Soho House presents its plan for expansion on the Lower east Side before Community Board 3’s SLA Committee. The proposal was first floated in February. The private members’ club postponed the application for a full liquor permit at 139 Ludlow Street twice in recent months. There were numerous open houses inside the former funeral home and an offer to create a community space in the basement.
In the past several days, a high profile Soho House supporter, LES documentarian Clayton Patterson, softened his endorsement of the club somewhat. In his column in the Villager, Patterson wrote that Soho House is the “lesser of what could be so much worse.” By this, he means that the building could become a boisterous night club or restaurant masquerading as night club, like so many other Lower East Side nightlife venues.
Patterson took his share of criticism on The Lo-Down and elsewhere for speaking in favor of the club, which would be located in an area CB3 has designated “over saturated” with liquor licenses. He visited Soho House in the Meatpacking District several times, tried to recruit local artists to join, worked with Soho House on a tribute to Taylor Mead and was planning to hold the Acker Awards, which recognize members of the avant garde arts community, in the Ludlow Street space.
In the end, he decided to move the awards to the Angel Orensanz Center and concluded that the club was not all that interested in supporting the types of struggling artists who are still hanging in there on the gentrified Lower East Side. But as Patterson told us in a phone conversation the other day, he thinks they’ll fit in just fine in the “new neighborhood” and won’t disturb people on the block. Bottom line, he said, “you can’t be against everything” and it makes little sense to fight the gentrification of Ludlow Street when that war has already been lost.
Meanwhile, a neighborhood group, LES Dwellers, has prepared a 34 page document in opposition to the Soho House application and another proposal at 177 Ludlow that has since been withdrawn. They have emailed it to members of Community Board 3 in advance of tonight’s meeting. The document notes that there are 51 full liquor licenses within 500 feet of the proposed club. It also includes illustrated photos highlighting the close proximity between Soho House’s proposed roof deck and the apartments of local residents. The Dwellers argue Soho House will “benefit a few at the expense of many in an area well beyond its ability to manage conditions at night.” You can have a look at the slide show here.
We’ll have a full report following tonight’s CB3 meeting.
UPDATE 5/24/2013: Clayton Patterson contacted us to say the summary above does not accurately reflect his views on Soho House. In an email message, he said, “my objective was to push Soho House to see what they were actually offering.” Patterson did not try to ‘recruit” other artists but indicated he tried to “get local artists to ask about a membership… I asked for a membership for a few local creative people, and I asked if I could trade my photographs for a membership for a neighborhood creative person. And I asked about jobs for local people.” More from his email:
Soho House said creative people who could not afford a membership could trade art for a membership… I had lined up some local people who I thought should be acceptable- then I was told that no decision could be made about memberships for at least 8 months, or until Soho House was ready to open Ludlow Street. I mentioned I thought memberships were good worldwide. If Soho House likes the art then what difference did it make if a membership was for the Meatpacking (location) or Ludlow (Stree). Both are NYC. And I was also told, “no,” I could not trade my photos for another person’s membership. And “no” they were not accepting job applications. I see testing what is being offered as different than recruiting. My disappointment is, as far as I know, no one else actually tested what was being offered. In the end I felt SH is insincere in their offer.
Patterson had this to say about his role in a screening of Taylor Mead’s films on the Lower East Side:
I did not get involved working with Soho House to set up the Taylor Mead show. I put MM Serra (director of the Filmmakers’ Coop) together with Soho House to do a Taylor Mead screening at the Ludlow Street location. I am waiting to see if MM will be given a membership and what kind. My disappointment with the Taylor Mead Memorial screening was there was almost no one from Soho House at the screening. I looked at the audience and understood immediately that almost the whole audience was from the community. When the screening was ready to start why I asked the question: who is from Soho House? Only a couple of people raised their hand. This to me meant no support from Soho House…