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Sid Gold's Request Room

“I’ve always been a fan of music, ” Paul Devitt told me as I sat down at the bar surrounding the piano in the back room of Sid Gold’s. He co-owns this amazing concept alongside Joe McGinty, a composer, arranger, and pianist, also known for having started the Loser’s Lounge, a group of talented performers who breathe new life into pop classics. Despite the fact that Joe is the more musical of the two, it was Paul’s idea to open Sid Gold’s Request Room, which is fittingly named after a Broadway talent agent. Paul is a lover of themed bars. He started in Philadelphia and opened his first bar, Silk City, in a vintage diner car where names such as the Roots and Diplo performed. Upon his move to New York, he opened Beauty Bar, which combines a classic bar with a retro salon. He has since opened Beauty Bars in San Francisco, Las Vegas, Chicago, Denver, and Dallas. “I’ve never had the drive to open ‘just a bar, ’” Paul emphasized. There is something to delight and astonish in every bar that he imagines. For example, when he ran Coral Room in Chelsea, there was a ten thousand liter fish tank, complete with “mermaids” swimming behind the glass. Paul smiled and said, “I always want to do something interesting. ”Paul met Joe a few times through a karaoke night that Joe hosted. When he came up with the idea to open a piano bar centering around pop songs, he knew that Joe was the man to ask. When I visited in August of 2015, just four months after they first opened, it was clear that his latest brainchild was already a hit. As Paul explained, “The reaction Beauty Bar got twenty years ago is what Sid Gold’s has now – so I know it is a success. ” Sid Gold’s classy karaoke-esque request hour begins at 9pm every night, and even “Monday nights are mobbed, ” he explained, both shell-shocked and pleased. The bar already has amassed a faithful crew of regulars. Paul partially credits the location with Sid Gold’s success, since the Request Room is a unique gem among a row of sports bars. He also pointed out that Sid Gold’s is different from similar establishments because of the lack of Broadway songs being sung. “Joe doesn’t know a lot of show tunes. Occasionally people come in wanting them, and he’ll play a couple, but it’s not his thing. ” I asked Paul what his own go-to song was. He laughed and responded, “Righteous Brothers, Loving Feeling. It’s always good to do a sing-a-long, here. ”Joe is at the piano most nights, but when I visited, it was his night off and a young man named Julian was impressively mastering the keys. Some members of the Manhattan Sideways team stayed to witness the singing and to request their own tunes. The highlight of the night, however, was when Paul himself took the mic and started crooning.

Lost Gem
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Brandy's Piano Bar

Brandy's Piano Bar, located on a quiet Yorktown street, has been a piano bar since 1979 but has been a straight-up bar for even longer. When the current owner took over in 1985, he renovated the space and discovered the original panels that decorate the short dividing wall between the bar and the seating area. They feature the bar as it once was, and the two men portrayed in front of the building are thought to be the original owners. I spoke to Peter, who has been working at Brandy's Piano Bar since St. Patrick's Day in 2014. Although Brandy's features a singing wait staff, Peter works the earlier hours, noting that he only sings "in the shower. " The bar offers a happy hour from 4pm to 8pm with live music beginning every night at 9: 30pm. The piano player rotates each night; therefore, one can expect to be able to listen to anything from Broadway hits to classic piano tunes to the top forty. Requests are welcome and according to Peter, "There's no song they won't try... though they might be crap at it. "While customers sing along, it is the waitstaff that steal the show, with many of them moving on to roles on and off-Broadway. Peter pointed out the signed posters from New York professional productions that decorate the back wall. They represent the shows that feature ex-Brandy's employees. Some even return to Brandy's after a run on Broadway, including Lauren Mufson, who played Donna in Mamma Mia. Peter explained that Brandy's is a great place for people who do not want to visit a "touristy" location. Though the after-9: 30pm crowd is different every night and comes from all over the city and the world, Peter's early evening crowd is familiar to him, full of locals and regulars. Despite the amazing musicians and voices that pass through, Brandy's is still a neighborhood joint, complete with a friendly, relaxed atmosphere.

Lost Gem
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Hai-Lan Chinese American Cultural Society

The owner of this amazing piece of property, Malina, has endless energy and is incredibly knowledgeable about all things related to Chinese culture and tradition. She is very involved in the arts in her native land, and travels back and forth between China and New York on somewhat of a regular basis. If fortunate enough to catch her in, striking up a conversation is well worth anyone's time. The concept behind her latest venture is great, and as soon as the red paint on the walls is dry - believed by the Chinese to keep the evil spirits away - and the menu set, the Yung family will open their doors. Once a part of the Chinese Cultural Society, the imperial loft is marked by its striking entrance, a pagoda of violet with a red iron door, followed inside by prominent murals - each sharing a piece of Chinese history. While the same family has owned the whole building for decades, the purpose of the space has changed over time. What was originally a teashop is now a community space for the arts. Upstairs, a grand room with beautifully embroidered chairs will be the site for comedy shows, live music, and birthday parties. Downstairs, where rows of tabletops display magnificent Chinese paintings, each with its own story, the owners envision an Asian restaurant. Further back, doors open to a garden. Decorative tiles cover the wall and a ring of brick outlines the entrance to a hidden Buddhist temple - simply awe-inspiring. The convertible and advantageous nature of the Imperial Loft makes it, as Malina's son-in-law, Kahli, expressed, "something you hold on to. "

Lost Gem
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Copacabana originally opened in 1940 and would eventually welcome notable performances from the likes of Frank Sinatra, Dean Martin, Sammy Davis Jr, The Supremes, The Temptations, Marvin Gaye, and Sam Cooke — several of whom would go on to record live albums at the venue. The iconic nightclub was one of the early victims of the pandemic and closed its Times Square location on 8th Avenue and W47th Street in May 2020. But music and passion has brought longtime Copacabana owner John Juliano and nightlife impresario Ruben Rubin Cabrera together for a triumphant return of The Copacabana. After founding owner Jules Podell died in 1973, the club shut down for several years, reopening in 1976 under the leadership of Juliano. The serial nightclub owner told W42ST while sitting at a booth in a midtown diner: “It was my pet, the Copacabana was my pet and still is. ” He rebuilt an environment where “people started coming in from the old days — Desi Arnaz, Frank Sinatra, Tony Bennett — I met all of those people, ” says Juliano. This melding of 40s Golden Age mystique and 70s hazy, boisterous discotheque was forever immortalized in Barry Manilow’s 1978 smash-hit Copacabana (At the Copa). The song, a fictional, three-act tale of one showgirl’s descent into madness over her murdered lover, hit the Billboard Top Ten in 1978 and would go on to be adapted into a full-length TV movie musical and cult hit stage production. It was within this world of glitz, glamor, and Copacabana showgirls that Cabrera first fell in love with nightlife. He grew up in Hell’s Kitchen and found himself working as a teenager at a catering hall on East 60th Street in 1979. The owner used to go to the Copa on Tuesday nights, “and one Tuesday he invited me to go with him. “He said, ‘Let me take you downtown and show you the real club scene’, ” Cabrera recalls. He was only 14, “I was a tall, skinny kid who looked older than I was, ” and the owner “bought me my first suit” to wear to the club. Cabrera put on the suit and snuck into the Copa, where he was smitten by the big band and the bright, noisy, world of nightlife. “The Copa girls were my first love — I fell in love with them, I fell in love with the bartender, I fell in love with the club scene and I have been in it ever since. ”Cabrera had been running the venue as Casa 51 up to the onset of COVID, now he’s thrilled to be bringing the vibrant energy of the Copa back to Hell’s Kitchen. “I grew up spending a lot of time going to every bar and restaurant in Times Square and Hell’s Kitchen, and spending lots of sleepless nights here, ” he saysDuring his over 45 year tenure, Juliano has run nightclubs throughout Hell’s Kitchen including Copacabana venues on 11th Avenue at W34th and W57th Street as well as the famed Red Parrot and Emerald City. He hosted the Copa’s most recent location in Times Square, where he expanded the club’s reach by positioning it close to bustling tourist hotspots. A stroke and the COVID-19 shutdown forced him to step back, but he has since recovered and is excited to bring back “Latin dancing — there’s no place to go to do salsa and merengue, this will be it. ”This story was adapted from the W42ST article, "The Copacabana Returns to New York in a Glittering Disco Revival — Who Could Ask for More? ”

Lost Gem
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Ashford & Simpson's Sugar Bar

When the Manhattan Sideways team walked into Sugar Bar, there was an audible reaction. It was unlike anything we had ever seen: the walls are covered in decorations and musical instruments from Africa and a roof of straw covers the full-length bar. Colorful masks adorn the doors and lights peek out of artistic holes in red pipes, giving off a warm orange glow. Everything appears to be made of organic material: even the chairs are made of pieces of wood lashed together. In the back of the main room, a cave is dug into the wall where performing acts usually set up to play. That is what Sugar Bar is best known for: the music. Some truly soulful artists, such as Roberta Flack and Allison Williams, have passed under the straw roof. We learned from one of the servers, who also occasionally plays bass and guitar on Tuesdays, "For musicians, this is the place to be. This is the scene. "Leila, who is in charge of PR for Sugar Bar, told us a bit about its history. It was opened in 1996 by Nickolas Ashford and Valerie Simpson, also known as the songwriting/performing duo Ashford and Simpson. All of the extraordinary pieces that decorate the space are part of their personal art collection. Their goal was to bring the culture and warmth of Africa to New York City in an “east meets west” fusion atmosphere. The décor of the space represents this mixture of worlds: While most of the pieces – such as the swords, carvings, and statues – are from Africa, there are many American pieces placed seamlessly alongside them. For example, Leila showed us some of the original panels from the S. S. Normandie, a ship that famously caught fire and sank in the Hudson River. I was shocked to discover that the panels were no behind glass and that any customer could go up and touch them. “This is not just a place for music, ” Leila pointed out. “It is a place for culture. It transports you to a different time and place. ”Hugo, who has been working at Sugar since 2005, took us upstairs to the Cat Lounge, which can be used as a private room but also functions as a spillover bar (Valerie Simpson own the whole building, which dates back to the early nineteenth century). Bows, arrows, and representations of giraffes and elephants surround the Cat Lounge, but it was not until Hugo urged us to look up that we understood how it got its name: an enormous cat design is sprawled out on the ceiling. Despite his long career with Sugar Bar, Hugo said that he keeps discovering new things. He pointed out two little carved faces above the stairs as we descended. “It’s a fun place to work, ” he said. “I like it. ” Leila agreed with him, joking that she has tried to leave Sugar Bar multiple times, but keeps coming back, because there is no better place to be employed. Downstairs, we met Terrell, who was manning the bar. He made us the signature "Sugartini" with cherry, peach nectar, Absolut, and peach schnapps, culminating in a not-too-sweet summery cocktail. He brought out an amazing sample platter, featuring fried catfish, jerk chicken wings, and lightly battered shrimp, which the Manhattan Sideways team delved into with vigor. Olivia exclaimed that the chicken was impossibly tender as it fell off the bone, while Tom found the two seafood dishes to be perfectly battered, providing crispiness, but not masking flavor. Nickolas and Valerie are both from South Carolina, hence the southern comfort food on the menu. Terrell then surprised us with a "Passion Island" cocktail made with lime juice, mint leaves, and coconut rum, accompanied by plates of cornbread with strawberry butter, something that is served to every guest prior to their meal. Hugo continued to entertain us behind the bar as he poured a drink of his own making, which he calls "Coquito" or "Little Coconut. " It was deeply refreshing, thanks to the healthy dose of coconut water. As if we had not eaten and drunk enough, Terrell presented us with plates of apple cobbler and bread pudding from the pastry chef, Jenny. The divine bread pudding was dripping in butter and cream, and when I took a bite of the cobbler, I immediately understood why Terrell had been raving about it. "I push the food honestly, " he said. "I can't sell something I don't eat myself, and I eat here three times a week! "The one thing we kept hearing from everyone at Sugar Bar was "You really have to come on a Thursday. " Every night has some kind of music, whether it is Blues on Tuesday or Jazz on Wednesday, but Thursday is when the Sugar Bar really heats up with its open mic. Thursdays are often so crowded that the Cat Lounge fills up right away, and famous faces, such as Stevie Wonder, Catherine Zeta Jones, and Chris Tucker have been known to come by. Hugo mentioned, "Some people have been coming every Thursday since we opened and haven't missed one week. " Terrell also urged us to come back on Thursday, saying that he would be working. "But it doesn't feel like work, " he insisted. "It feels like you're hanging out with friends until four in the morning. "

Lost Gem
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The Cutting Room

On 24th street for ten years before moving to 32nd in 2013, the Cutting Room caught my attention before I even entered. I spotted a guitar in the window decorated with kaleidoscopic colors, and soon learned that famed artist Mark Kostabi had created it. Once indoors, I was immediately drawn in by the eighteen hanging guitars that serve as a massive chandelier. Someone had an incredible vision and was able to take what the owner, Steve Walter, described as a “white box” of a carpet store and turn it into an over-the-top venue for appreciating music. One of the two partners behind this fantastic place is Chris Noth, known for his roles as “Big” on Sex and the City and Peter Florrick in The Good Wife. He felt that Manhattan was missing the same connection and deep passion for live music that he had growing up, and he and Steve wanted to bring this back to our city. Steve is also devoted to music—growing up on the Jersey Shore, he played guitar in a band, graduated from the Berklee College of Music in Boston, and had the original vision of a 1940s supper club that is now pulsing on 32nd. The stunning forty-six foot mahogany wood bar is gigantic, evoking the image of a Stratocaster – a Fender guitar model – wrapping itself around one whole side of the room. They built a grand staircase in the center, where there is a gallery with Kathrina Miccio’s paintings of iconic musicians. I took the challenge and attempted to name as many as I could, from Billie Holiday to Billy Joel and BB King, Ella Fitzgerald, Louis Armstrong, Keith Richards, Steven Tyler and Jimmy Page in the middle. Continuing my walk around the staircase, I found a collection of photographs with fascinating shots of Paul, John, George and Ringo done by Lennon’s former girlfriend, May Pang. The Cutting Room offers an eclectic mix of performers, and on any given night there may be several shows going on—sometimes jazz and rock, and sometimes even classical music. Mondays are usually devoted to Broadway, where theater stars drop in to perform. Hearing Steve rattle off the long list of musicians, spanning decades, who have performed in both the former space and the current one was like listening to a who’s who in the music hall of fame: Judy Collins, Emmylou Harris, Neil Young, Sting, Adam Levine, and not too long ago, ninety-four year old Pete Seeger. How I wish I had known about that event. From the industry’s top musicians to the up-and-comers, every night is an exhilarating experience that includes fresh American fare, a bottle of wine and a good crowd of people.