This week we learned that the Beatrice Inn finally had a new master, when Cobi Levy stepped up the plate and announced his plans to convert the former hotspot into a Spanish tapas restaurant. So while we wish Cobi the best in his new endeavor, it is with a heavy heart that we bid farewell to the Bea. Hate if you will, but it was pretty difficult to spend an evening there and not have fun, and no other venue has been able to take its place since the Beatrice's untimely closing. So with that in mind, let's take a look back at the short but marvelous life of the Beatrice Inn.
In a previous life, the Beatrice Inn space was originally a speakeasy, using a hidden 8th Avenue door as an emergency exit in case of a raid. Post-prohibition, the Beatrice took on a new life as a neighborhood Italian restaurant, drawing regular customers through five decades until 2005, when the owners of the building and restaurant decided that it was time to sell them both after 50 years. Apparently they sold for just $200,000, a ridiculously low price, to Bob Rinaolo, a longtime West Village resident and owner of such esteemed joints as Senor Swanky's. Rinaolo also had several problems with Community Board 2, on which he served as a committee chairperson. The sale left the former Beatrice patrons "searching for new places to eat and will 'likely disperse all over the West Village'," a foreshadowing of things to come.
Sometime in 2006, Rinaolo tapped downtown scenester Paul Sevigny to take the lease for the Beatrice Inn. Sevigny had teamed up with ex-banker Matt Abramcyk and his pal Andre from Paris, and had been on the prowl for his own space after having a successful run at Sway. The group had originally looked at the Waverly Inn space, but was beat by Graydon Carter. They quietly went to work on renovations and haphazardly opened the place in the fall of that year. One insider remembers that there was no real plan for the opening, and that sometime around Halloween of that year decided to open their doors and hope that their friends would start to come by.
Word of Sevigny's new joint began to leak less than a week later. The "plan" called for an Employee's Only chef to serve a small plates menu to compliment a classic cocktail list, although it's unclear how many meals were ever served there. However, the rumor that the kitchen was never used is not true. Sevigny told a then new Grub Street, "the whole idea behind the bar-restaurant is bringing things back to NYC, like American and New York things." There never was much of a guest list - either you were in or you were out. Most were out, but some took rejection better than others. It was funny to see groups of attractive ladies be told that it was a private party while two guys would be allowed to enter. Buying your way past the door staff was not an option.
Our first visit to Beatrice came in early 2007, when we observed that it was "strange to see real smoke inside a New York bar." It didn't take long to get us hooked. For many, the Bea became their own version of Cheers, and you would often see the same people in the same spots every time you went. Many of them were dressed in scarves and odd shirts, but they were still regulars.
It wasn't too long before the trouble started. The first Beatrice raids started in the beginning of 2008, and they were a constant up until its ultimate demise. The rumors of excessive partying in the bathrooms, illegal dancing, and cigarette smoking had spread and the neighbors quickly realized that the new Beatrice Inn had nothing in common with the Beatrice Inn they had known for 50 years. As the owners struggled with the community and SLA to keep the bar open, the party continued onward
And what a party it was. The bar's regulars were part of New York's cultural elite. The Beatrice was the regular home for Heath Ledger, the Olsen Twins, Michel Gondry, Kirsten Dunst, Waris Ahluwalia, Clive Owen, Kate Moss, Kate Hudson, Sean Penn, Keira Knightly, Dash Snow, Sam Shepard and countless others. The Beastie Boys, Moby, Marky Ramone and Mark Ronson spun there, and DJs like Rachel Chandler, Lissy Trullie, Harley and Cassie, Nate Loweman, Leo Fitzpatrick and Matt Creed all got their starts at the Beatrice. Getting laid there was even easy. Insiders fondly recall every fashion executive in New York for Fashion Week attempting to get inside for the Purple Parties, and hosting a birthday party for Penelope Cruz that went late into the night. Most of the people we spoke with said there were just too many great nights for any of them to stand out.
What is easy to remember is the Beatrice was probably the final hot spot that opened outside the glaring eye of the blogs. Sevigny et al managed to secure the space, get a liquor license, renovate, and open the bar all without anyone really knowing what was going on. The first mentions of the space were so obscure, with no photographs, that it took months before the general public or the Community Board became aware of the Beatrice. It is almost impossible to imagine that happening today, when nightlife projects are announced before a lease is even signed.
But eventually, the jig was up. The community fought back against the noise, crowds and increased traffic, and a well connected neighbor got hold of someone in the Mayor's office. Sooner or later, they got hit with so many building code violations that they were forced to close. Despite their best efforts, it was impossible to Save the Bea. Apparently things remain eerily untouched since the shuttering, and all of the furniture and artwork have been left behind. It's a given that the new owners will be gutting the place, leaving no trace of what once was.
Much like the patrons of the original restaurant, the modern day Beatrice has created its own diaspora. Paul has teamed up with Nur Khan at Kenmare. Doormen Angelo and Todd spend a few nights at Avenue. Matt has opened Warren 77 with Sean Avery. Simonez is throwing parties at the Bowery and Red Egg. But for most of the regulars, nothing has replaced the Bea. And despite rumors of comebacks and relaunches, its unclear that anything ever will.
· Beatrice Inn Coverage [~ENY~]