They came in droves last night to say goodbye to Max Fish, the legendary Ludlow Street bar that was the center of gravity for artists, skaters and misfits of all types for a quarter century.
It seems like we’ve been saying goodbye to the Fish for a long time. After several close calls and landlord tussles over the past few years, owner Ulli Rimkus finally made the decision to relocate in Brooklyn. Skyrocketing rent was one reason why but – as Rimkus told us several weeks ago – it’s been clear for years that the edgy. creative spirit that made Ludlow Street exciting has faded away.
Last night, an enormous crowd pushed its way through the narrow space for one last drink and hung out in front of the legendary nightlife spot. It was so jammed inside that getting to the bar was nearly impossible. The NYPD, which gave Rinkus a pretty hard time in recent years, stayed away, letting the party play out at this spot one last time.
The mainstream media eulogies continued this morning.
“As someone who’s been going to Max Fish for over 20 years,” former LES resident Moby told the Daily News, “I’m sad to see another pillar of degeneracy closing its doors… NYC… continues to eat its young.” Another Max Fish devotee, former Scissor Sisters drummer Patrick “Paddy Boom” Seacor, chimed in with his own walk down memory lane:
I remember when I was in college in 1989 a buddy of mine was doing an art show there. I never ventured into that area because it was shady at the time and there was nowhere to go… I’ve had some crazy dirty ass triple-X-rated things happen down there that I can’t repeat… That bar and that basement (a rehearsal space that’s also closing soon) were quintessential downtown — funky and gritty with a lot of character… It wasn’t the party mall it is today.
Jeremiah’s Vanishing New York takes a look at the demise of Max Fish in the context of Ludlow Street gentrification, observing:
Like the Bowery, Bleecker, the Meatpacking District, everything along the High Line, and many other areas, Ludlow Street is being decimated by an unstoppable force, massive and moving at warp speed, created not by struggling artists, but by politicians and developers.
It’s been a tough year on Ludlow Street. Last month, locals said so long to Motor City, another beloved bar. Last winter, Pink Pony, Max Fish’s next door neighbor was closed; no new tenant has surfaced for that space. As an upscale new hotel nears completion at 180 Ludlow St., however, it’s likely just a matter of time before new commercial tenants begin to emerge, remaking this once bohemian stretch of the Lower East Side.