Song of Return performing at Joe's Pub in 2012
|Address||425 Lafayette Street|
New York City, NY 10003-7021
|Location||East Village, Lower Manhattan|
|Owner||The Public Theater|
|Opened||October 16, 1998|
|Construction cost||$2.35 million|
Joe's Pub, one of the six performance spaces within The Public Theater, is a music venue and restaurant that hosts live performances across genres and arts, ranging from cabaret to modern dance to world music. Joe's Pub is located at 425 Lafayette Street near Astor Place in Manhattan, New York City. It is named after Joseph Papp, the theatrical producer who established the New York Shakespeare Festival, The Public Theater and the free Shakespeare in the Park program in Central Park.
The venue is notable for being where Amy Winehouse and Adele made their U.S. headlining concert debuts. In 2013, in its 15th anniversary year, the Pub was declared one of Rolling Stone Magazine's 10 Best Clubs in America.
Joe's Pub opened on October 16, 1998 with an inaugural concert performed by Carl Hancock Rux. Soon after, a reviewer for The New York Times wrote "You enter through the side door of the Joseph Papp Public Theater. Farther south on Lafayette Street, revolving doors admit patrons to the Public's various theatrical spaces, but here, on the outskirts, an iron-fenced portal offers entree to the theater's new nightclub." He continued, "But Joe's Pub is a much less lofty enterprise, carved as it is from ground-floor back-office space at the theater." The $2.35 million club is the result, in part, of a construction and renovation grant to the Public from city capital funds that includes refurbishment of the Delacorte Theater in Central Park. There were some doubters when the club opened in October who wondered whether the Public Theater could make a theater-night life alliance work. Six months later, according to George C. Wolfe, the then-producer of the Public, Joe's Pub "is actually doing better than I thought it would." He continued to say, "The club's programming is idiosyncratic: from ethnic music ensembles to spoken-word artists to the most promising young musical-theater composers and performers on the contemporary scene, the changing roster has generated an after-hours theatricality all its own."
The Pub is known as one of New York City's live showcase venues, catering to an eclectic mix of music genres. This defining feature of Joe's Pub – its extraordinary variety – was the vision of Public Theater Associate Producer Bonnie Metzgar and principal booking agent Bill Bragin, an aficionado of music in all forms and a world-music DJ in his own right. Bragin established relationships with artists that have made Joe's Pub a home-base for local, domestic, and international acts. In 2007, when Bragin left Joe's Pub to work for Lincoln Center, Shanta Thake was unanimously given the head-booker position by the board of the Public Theater. Thake currently serves as the director of Joe's Pub, with Alex Knowlton acting as associate director.
In 2011, the Pub, along with the rest of The Public's downtown building, received a top-to-bottom renovation, leading to improved sight lines, expanded seating capacity and a new food and beverage partnership with Chef Andrew Carmellini.
The venue is equipped with theater-quality lighting and sound. During its formative years, the sound was engineered by Kurt Wolf, former punk-rock guitarist for Pussy Galore. The club established a reputation as having extraordinary sound during this time. When Wolf moved on to other projects, Jon Shriver, a technician who has worked with John Legend and The Notorious B.I.G., began doing the audio engineering. The sound quality at Joe's Pub remains at the top of the "best in NYC" short list among critical reviewers.
Joe's Pub also serves as a bar and restaurant during performance hours and is known as being a top romantic spot in New York City after opening. When The Public reopened in 2012 after the renovation, the Pub's food and beverage partner Joe's Pub LLC - Kevin Abbott, Serge Becker, Josh Pickard and Paul Salmon - was joined by the Noho Hospitality Group, the restaurant group led by Andrew Carmellini and Luke Ostrom. The group also launched a full-service restaurant, The Library at The Public.
The decor of Joe's Pub is the work of interior designer and Joe's Pub LLC partner Serge Becker, the man behind many New York City hotspots, including La Esquina on Delancey Street. Patrons often note an accordion encased along the east wall of the Pub: Becker intended the design of the interior to be modeled after the accordion, from the striped, bee-pollen bar, to the strip lighting, to the exposed sound-proofing. Along the south wall, photographs of Joe Papp and famous colleagues are on display. At one point, the photos featured a young Kevin Spacey, mustachioed in fur coat. With the 2011 renovation, the photos were updated to include artists like Leonard Cohen, Adele, Allen Toussaint, Alan Cumming, Amy Winehouse and, of course, Joseph Papp.
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