Nick Bodor inside the future Baker Falls.
Photo: DeSean McClinton-Holland
Nick Bodor surreptitiously glanced back and forth as he opened the padlocked door of the Pyramid Club at 6th Street and Avenue A. “The East Village is a small town,” he said. he said, as I held his coffee. Below 14th Street, Bodor is micro-famous for owning the cozy but dipping Library bar, still at the foot of Avenue A after 24 years, and the defunct Cake Shop on Rivington Street, called the “last great rock club of Manhattan” by Twirl. The day before we met, he had taken over the old Pyramid Club, which opened in 1979 and closed a month ago. It was his first visit as a co-owner, and the keys, freshly cut, were stiff in the locks. It took an extra minute to open the door – enough time for a tall, shaggy hipster from the art-punk band Transgender Jesus to walk by and offer a confused smile.
“Nick, aren’t you taking control of Pyramid?” »
“Hey, man. I’ll tell you more soon. Keep it quiet, Paul, but we’re bringing rock from the East Village back to Manhattan.
We slipped inside and Bodor quickly pulled the door down to prevent other snoops.
I was last inside Pyramid when Reagan was president. At the time, the club occasionally hosted rock bands, including early East Coast gigs for Nirvana and the Red Hot Chili Peppers, but it was best known for drag. If you were lucky, you might catch Lady Bunny and RuPaul on the floor, or even Madonna. In the mid-1980s I was into rock boys and preferred King Tut’s Wah Wah Hut or the Ritz, now (and once) Webster Hall, then, a little later, the Brownies. In the mid-90s, the buzz headed south to Ludlow Street, and the East Village was left with a scattering of small folk spots like the Sidewalk Cafe and a few waning clubs like the Pyramid d ‘today.
This gives Bodor, who is 53, an opportunity – but also a small image problem to overcome. “It’s not a new Pyramid,” he said firmly. For one, it will have a new name, Baker Falls, which “refers to Cake Shop and a club in Williamsburg that I also owned with my brother Andy, Bruar Falls.” He added that it is a collaboration with the owners of the knitting factory. “The club will be all-inclusive and safe, but it will be a rock club. We’ll have the sickest sound with a jaw-dropping backline. We can even have vintage guitars locked up in an office, so if bigger names want to pop in with a secret show, we’ll have the sound, venue and audience for it.
Nick – who I’ve known for almost 30 years since he ran an early internet cafe called alt.coffee – laid his coat on the 30ft bar. He wore skinny jeans, a black t-shirt and a scruffy hoodie: the old East Village uniform. Only the faded rocket tattoos on her arms and flecks of gray in her trendy cut provided color. I told him that I got a few “RIP Pyramid” texts from Gen X friends after the club closed, but to be honest, Pyramid had become a relic. (It happens.) Bodor agreed but recalled visiting the club during prime time, attending gothic dance parties around 1987 where a DJ spun artists like Sisters of Mercy, the Cult and the Cure.
“Yes, I’m bringing the Cake Shop legacy, but the Knit is also coming back to Manhattan,” he continued. (If you’re old enough, you’ll remember that the knitting factory started small on East Houston Street, where Botanica is now, then moved to a bigger space in Tribeca, then Brooklyn, then closed in september.) “They’re national and diverse, based in LA, but CEO Morgan Margolis grew up on East 6th Street between First and Second. It’s personal to him. We negotiated a 15-year lease and are on the long term. Nothing is guaranteed, but I have a financial cushion for the first time. I’m the creative here, but they’ll also help with the booking. Win-win. I’m also not creating an Instagrammable corner – that’s still the pattern now, and that’s bullshit to me.
The emptied room allowed me to grasp the age of the building. “From 1876,” says Bodor. The ground floor was a large room called Kern’s Hall, “purpose-built to be a gathering place from the start. People came here after the General Slocum steamer burned on the East River in 1904; so many inhabitants were lost. Even earlier, there was a one-story building here, a brewery owned by a German immigrant, Peter Doelger, who brought pilsner-style beer to America. Bodor plans to integrate this story into the decor: “On the ground floor, you will see globes and cuckoo clocks, my fever dreams of what Doelger’s office might have looked like. A place like Gray Gardens, not oversized. But I will keep the imprint of the Pyramid upstairs. Soundproofing will be extremely expensive, but I won’t move the bar. I want everyone who has visited this space over the past 40 years to feel at home. The bones will be there, and the story will be apparent.
Looks like he wants to create the next legendary spot, I suggest. He smiles. “Yeah. Is that weird to say? he asks. “But I do, and my whole career has led to this point. When I opened the Library Bar in 1998, I wanted to have the most impressive jukebox in New York. Back then, in 1999, people were still reading the voice of the village, and we got it. The best.”
Bodor hopes to open Baker Falls as early as March 2023, with a soft launch in late February. “For touring bands, merch is the only way to make money now,” he says. “And fortunately for New Yorkers, many bands will be coming to New York around the time it opens.” What will differentiate this club, he hopes, is its size. “There are few venues in Manhattan where you can have a significant crowd for an upcoming rock band. There’s the Bowery Ballroom; it’s an amazing place, but it’s got 650 and it’s too big for many groups.We can do 300 which is perfect.
His 19-year-old son, Angus, is also getting into the business: “My boy is an East Village kid, but when I used to hop on those Metro-North trains to see shows at his age, he and his buddies were stuck at home on Zoom. He wants that chance to be on stage. Generation Z wants to work and wants to learn. They are very hungry, which is very encouraging. What’s also encouraging is that many young people are getting into rock music, especially if their parents have impeccable taste. I hope Angus can take over when I step down. Maybe he’ll be the next brave soul to keep East Village rock alive.