Nick Bodor inside the future Baker Falls.
Photo: DeSean McClinton-Holland
Nick Bodor peeked both ways as he climbed the padlocked door of the Pyramid Club at 6th Street and Avenue A. “The East Village is a small town,” he said, holding his coffee. Beneath 14th Street, Bodor is micro-famous for owning the cozy but fun Library bar, still operating at the foot of Avenue A after 24 years, and the now-defunct Rivington Street joint, the Cake Shop, dubbed the “last great rock club in Manhattan” by To turn. The day before we met, he had taken over the old Pyramid Club, which opened in 1979 and closed a month ago. This was his first visit as co-owner, and the keys, freshly cut, were stiff in the locks. It took another minute for the door to open, long enough for a tall, shaggy hipster from the art-punk band Transgender Jesus to walk by and offer a confused smile.
“Nick, aren’t you going to take over Pyramid?”
“Hey man. I’ll fill you in on this soon. Keep this under wraps, Paul, but we’re bringing East Village rock back to Manhattan.
We slipped inside and Bodor quickly lowered the door to prevent any further snooping.
The last time I was inside the Pyramid was when Reagan was president. Back then, the club occasionally hosted rock acts, including early East Coast concerts by Nirvana and the Red Hot Chili Peppers, but was primarily known for being drag. If you’re lucky, you might catch Lady Bunny and RuPaul on the ground, or even Madonna. In the mid-1980s, I was into rockers and preferred King Tut’s Wah Wah Hut or the Ritz, now (and formerly) Webster Hall, and then, a bit later, Brownies. By the mid-’90s, the buzz headed south to Ludlow Street, and the East Village was left with a scattering of small folky joints like Sidewalk Cafe and a couple of run-down clubs like latter-day Pyramid.
That gives the 53-year-old Bodor an opportunity, but also a bit of an image problem to overcome. “This is not a new pyramid,” he said firmly. For one thing, he’ll have a new name, Baker Falls, which “refers to the Cake Shop and a Williamsburg club I also had with my brother Andy, Bruar Falls.” He added that it is a collaboration with the owners of Knitting Factory. “The club will be all-inclusive and safe, but it will be a rock club. We’ll have the sickest sound with an amazing back line. We may even have some vintage guitars stashed in an office, so if some bigger names want to come through with a secret show, we’ll have the sound, venue and audience for it.”
Nick, who I’ve known for nearly 30 years since he ran an early Internet cafe called alt.coffee, placed his coat on the 30-foot bar. He was wearing skinny jeans, a black T-shirt, and a beat-up hoodie—the old East Village uniform. Only the faded rocket tattoos on his arms and the gray flecks on his buzz cut gave her color. I told him that he had gotten a few “RIP Pyramid” texts from Gen X friends after the club closed, but if we’re being honest, Pyramid had become a relic. (Happens). Bodor agreed, but recalled visiting during the club’s heyday, going to gothic parties around 1987 where a DJ played songs like Sisters of Mercy, The Cult and The Cure.
“Yes, I will bring the legacy of the Cake Shop, but Knit will also return to Manhattan,” he continued. (If you’re old enough, you’ll recall that the Knitting Factory started on East Houston Street, where Botanica is now located, then moved to a larger space in Tribeca, then Brooklyn, and then closed in September.) re national and diversified, based in Los Angeles, but CEO Morgan Margolis grew up on East 6th Street between First and Second. This is personal to him. We negotiated a 15 year lease and we are in for the long term. Nothing is guaranteed, but I have a financial cushion for the first time. I’m the creative here, but they will also help with the reservation. Win-win I’m not setting up a corner for Instagram either, that’s always the model now, and that’s bullshit to me.”
The empty room allowed me to understand the age of the building. “Since 1876,” says Bodor. The ground floor was a large room called Kern’s Hall, “specially built to be a meeting place from the start. People came here after the general slocum steamboat burned on the East River in 1904; so many locals got lost. Even before, 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 include that history in the decor: “In the downstairs area, you’ll see globes and cuckoo clocks, my fever dream of what Doelger’s study might have looked like. A Gray Gardens type place, not too designed. But I will keep the footprint of the Pyramid up. Soundproofing will be very expensive, but I will not move the bar. I want anyone who has visited this space in the last 40 years to feel at home. The bones will be there, and the history will be clear.”
Sounds like you want to create the next legendary place, I suggest. He smiles. “Yes. Is it weird to say that?” he asks. “But I do, and my entire career has led up 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 people’s voice, and we got it The best.”
Bodor expects to open Baker Falls in March 2023, with a preliminary launch in late February. “For touring bands, merchandising is the only way to make money right now,” he says. “And luckily for New Yorkers, a lot of bands will be coming to New York right when we open.” What will set this club apart, he hopes, is its size. “There are few places in Manhattan where you can get a sizeable crowd for an upcoming rock band. There’s the Bowery Ballroom; It’s an amazing venue, but it seats 650 and that’s too big for many bands. We can do 300, which is perfect.”
His 19-year-old son, Angus, is also getting into the business: “My son is an East Village kid, but when I would get on those Metro-North trains to see shows at his age, he and his friends were stuck .at home on Zoom. He wants this opportunity to be on the scene. Gen Z wants to work and they want to learn. They are very hungry, which is very encouraging. What is also encouraging is that a lot of young people are getting involved in rock , especially if his parents have impeccable taste. I hope Angus can take over when he quits. He might be the next brave soul to keep East Village rock alive.”