Alphabet City bar The HiFi Bar, previously the music venue Brownies, is sadly shutting its doors at the end of October. Booker and co-owner Mike Stuto announced the news in a statement via facebook:
I (sorta) regret to inform you that my bar HiFi will be closing at the end of this calendar month, ending my 23 year tenure at 169 Avenue A. All parties booked before the end of the month will happen as planned. The story? Quite simply, the renovations we undertook a few years ago to reinvigorate the business were not successful in putting us back on a good financial footing.The generation of people who inhabit this neighborhood on weekends remain mostly indifferent to the place. HiFi seems to occupy a place square in the middle between "dive bar" and "mixologist paradise" -- and while I hoped that would help us have a broad appeal to the newbies, it turns out that it translated as utilitarian (aka boring) to their tastes. Could we have pivoted again? Yeah I guess so, but it turns out that I only want to run a bar if its one that I would want to hang out in. Otherwise it'd just be a job I have no passion for. And I don't want to live like that.
I want it to be clear that the building's landlord is in no way to blame for this outcome. Yes, the commercial rents in this neighborhood are all over-the-top insane, but at every turn, throughout the roughly 20 years that Time Equities has managed the building they have been an ideal landlord in pretty much every sense of the word. I have been lucky and honored to work with them and to know that there are good honorable people everywhere, even in nyc commercial real estate. Who woulda thunk it?
For the past 18 months or so I have known this outcome was inevitable, and in that time I have passed through all of the "stages of grief" about this era of my life coming to an end. There is no shame in being a 50 year old who no longer knows how to appeal to 25 year olds. So while this is at best a bittersweet moment, I am happy with the end result and very excited about what the future may bring.
BrooklynVegan's Bill Pearis has written about his history with HiFi:
Back in the ’90s, most up-and-coming indie rock bands touring through NYC played either Mercury Lounge or Brownies. Mike Stuto started booking shows there in 1994, and became co-owner in 1998. (Full disclosure: I’ve known Mike from before his Brownies days, and the club was the first place I saw a show when I moved to NYC.) Pretty much everybody played there and it was the site of the infamous 1998 show by The Fall that ended in an onstage brawl, with frontman Mark E. Smith arrested. When the club closed in 2002, Stuto turned Brownies into HiFi, a bar with no live music but with a digital jukebox that, at the time (iPods were still a novelty), had an astounding number of songs.
From HiFi's about page:
A bar with an indie rock pedigree.
NYC’s best rock ’n’ roll bar.
Home to EL DJ.
The bar formerly known as Brownies.
Yes to all of it. In the 90’s we helped introduce NYC to bands like Spoon, Death Cab For Cutie, Bright Eyes, The New Pornographers, Elliott Smith, My Morning Jacket, Nada Surf, Interpol, The Yeah Yeah Yeah’s, The National, Archers Of Loaf, The Rapture, The Walkmen, At The Drive In. And then we stopped–tossed the stage, revamped the space, went full corner-bar, for a full decade.
You'll be missed, HiFi.