The sky-high rents in New York City explains the proliferation of hybrid working spaces, like a surfboard and coffee shop, a clothing store and juice counter, but Beverly's Bar in the Lower East Side has changed the game with their full service bar and art gallery mash-up.
We caught up with the curator Leah Dixon about working with what you know, so you can keep doing what you love. See what she has to say about making work awesome in our interview below. And when you’re done reading this, head over to Essex Street and get a drink, because it's Friday.
Hi Leah! Thanks for letting us interview you. Let’s start with: how long have you been pursuing this dream occupation?
My partners and I are always on our toes about how to make sure that first and foremost, it's fun and interesting. If what's fun and interesting makes money - then that's great. Bare minimum we know how to run a good bar, full of awesome people, that pays for itself. It's all about the atmosphere. I've been a bartender for over seven years, and that experience, along with my partners' service industry experience, was absolutely crucial to our understanding how to build Beverly's as a business... but we are still learning. The term "dream occupation" is too self-satisfactory. How about having fun, forging connections, and being able to afford to stay in New York.
How did you decide that opening a bar was the most balanced option for an art space? Or was it the other way around?
I felt as though there was a big hole in how the art community was being addressed by the service industry... Which is weird because so many artists also work as waiters, bartenders, hosts, etc. I also knew from my many years of bartending that bringing people together in a positive environment is incredibly fulfilling and creative. My partners and I truly believe that if we can maintain a space that never becomes too comfortable with itself, that we will be a success. How to brand an un-brand? This is at the heart of what artists do. Artists want people to see their work. Beverly's wants to maintain conceptual flexibility.
What about having a hybrid space do you find so satisfying or compelling?
It's a way to flatten often-useless hierarchies. Bars, by nature, have virtually no class system. Everyone pees in the same toilet. Everyone has to say "excuse me" when they bump into someone. Everyone searches for the same nirvana on the dance floor. The best bars are places where everyone walks in the door with no expectations, and with open eyes. Many artists really want this kind of diverse audience. Also, the work that has been in Beverly's so far, just looks awesome in there. It's exciting to be around people who are excited. The artists who work with Beverly's are just that.... brimming over with ideas and ambition and opinions. That is hands down the best part of running a hybrid space. And then after all of that we get to have a drink and dance.
What's the ultimate goal for Beverly's? Is there a prize that you would love to win for Beverly's (think equivalent of Pulitzer for art spaces. Does this even exist? I don't know)
How about winning the lottery, so that we could create our own prize. I think that Beverly's would love to age gracefully and loudly.
What's up next for you guys?
We want to have more off-site events and exhibitions, and then all head back to Beverly's to celebrate them. We have lots of ideas and possibilities floating around. We just have to commit to one or ten. But we aren't even a year old, so there is no hurry. We mainly just want to continue to be a great bar.
And finally, who is Beverly?
She is a fabulous older woman, and if someone wants to know more about her (she really is quite a character), they should come into the bar and ask!