The tiki bar formerly known as Painkiller is closing in the next two weeks.
Maybe you walked by the turquoise spray-painted door at 49 Essex St. every day and never set foot inside; certainly lots of LES residents did. But maybe you ventured in one hot evening like the ones we’ve had this week, and ordered a carefully crafted cocktail made with fresh-squeezed juices and poured over a big fat square ice cube and were completely charmed by the result. Perhaps you were so delighted that you found yourself back there again and again, with a date or for a birthday or while tour-guiding visiting friends and relatives who were game for an exotic big-city drinking adventure. (My favorite out-of-towner reaction: Upon pushing aside the heavy velvet curtain inside the door one bitter snowy night, and surveying the tightly packed, chaotically lit, crazy-soundtracked scene, one friend exclaimed: “This must be illegal!”)
PKNY, as it became known after losing a federal lawsuit to Pusser’s Rum over the trademarked “Painkiller,” led the city’s artisan cocktail scene when it opened three years ago near the corner of Essex and Grand streets. It made headlines, and it made a lot of NYC bar and restaurant writers giddy with enthusiasm. It made Esquire magazine’s list of the top 10 bars in America. Most importantly, though, night after night for three years, it made very, very good drinks.
That’s not to say that the place was problem-free. In addition to the lawsuit, it ran afoul of the health department over sanitary issues and the police department over underage drinking. But somehow it always bounced back with even more momentum, drawing both Gotham denizens and tiki devotees from around the globe to the narrow subterranean space, where they shared flambeed scorpion bowls with giant straws or sipped powerful zombies, which came with pink pipe-cleaner flamingos and an admonition: you may have one, and only one.
If you’re a fan, or have never been and wondered what all the hype was, stop by soon. Sometime between now and July 31, the turquoise doors will shut forever. Owner Richard Boccato says it was a simple matter of real estate, combined with a recent rejection of a new liquor license for another location nearby.
“There isn’t much to say, really,” Boccato tells The Lo-Down. ” The landlord has decided not to renew our lease, and the Community Board has decided that they do not want us to open a new bar at a new location in the East Village. ‘The End.'”