The multitasking, tricky-to-define curatorial platform and publishing outfit e-flux is making moves to enter a new field—the hospitality industry—with plans to open a café and bar in Brooklyn’s Clinton Hill neighborhood.
The group, whose headquarters is on Manhattan’s Lower East Side, has applied to Community Board #2 for a liquor license at 224 Greene Avenue, a ground-floor commercial space just around the corner from the (very delicious) Mekelburg’s restaurant and bar and down the street from the (also tasty) pizza place Speedy Romeo.
“The idea is that hopefully you will be able to get really good-quality food,” Anton Vidokle, e-flux’s seemingly indefatigable founder, told me in a phone call this afternoon, “and after 5 or 6 p.m. it will start serving liquor.” (A format that is more frequently seen in Europe than the U.S., he pointed out.)
This is not e-flux’s first foray into food and beverage service, Vidokle noted. “Over the years I’ve done quite a few projects with food,” he said, “We’ve run a number of temporary restaurants.” There was, for instance, the Time/Food joint at Abrons Arts Center in 2011, which sold food for “time credits.” (A lot to explain—more information here.) The group also ran a bar as part of its unitednationsplaza school in Berlin in 2006. “It was very kind of Berlin-style,” he said. “Sometimes it would be open, sometimes it would be closed for a month.”
“Since that time,” Vidokle continued, “I’ve been dreaming of doing something very similar in New York, because these kind of spaces are very important for art.”
Vidokle, who turned 50 last year, sees a dearth of quality artist bars in New York these days. “The last that I can remember is Gavin Brown’s bar in the ’90s, early 2000s,” he said, referring to the dealer’s storied Passerby watering hole on West 15th Street in Manhattan. “I guess it became so popular that it became taken over by investment bankers and stuff. I understand why he closed.”
But Clinton Hill, he added, “is not Chelsea, it’s not Manhattan. There can be really a future for that kind of place.”
The aim of the new café, said Vidokle, who lives in the neighborhood, is to serve both the local community and art types in New York. There will also be a programming component. “I think it will be a very good place for book launches, and all sorts of journal launches and things like that,” Vidokle said, also mentioning poetry readings and film and video screenings.
The address is not too far from the Classon Avenue stop on the G train. “We’ve been studying this neighborhood and also artists living in Brooklyn,” Vidkole told me, “and it’s interesting that Clinton Hill is in the center of this G train line, which passes through all these neighborhoods with a strong presence of artists and curators.” (Among the art-rich areas it cruises through are Long Island City, Bushwick, and Ridgewood; Clinton Hill is home to the Pratt Institute.)
“It’s really interesting that this train line doesn’t enter Manhattan,” Vidokle continued. “There seems to be an axis here. We’re kind of dead center so maybe this could become a gathering place.”
Then another idea came to mind. “Somebody should organize a G train biennial,” he said.