THE MARKET HOTEL SHUTS DOWN, GROWS UPby Mimi Luse
Less than a month after the Market Hotel’s forced closing for serving alcohol without a license, the managers of the popular Bushwick DIY venue have announced plans to reopen the space as a nonprofit—an all-ages community space run partially by a board of governors that will include members of the New York-area arts community. It will also sell beer and wine, this time legally.
Though the Market Hotel Project, as the venue is being called now, will remain devoted to late-night punk shows, in its new incarnation it will also offer educational and visual-arts programming during daylight hours, much like the Smell in Los Angeles and the Vera Project in Seattle.
At a late April meeting, ubiquitous promoter Todd (“Todd P.”) Patrick, who has taken the reins on the project, explained the decision to a group of about 35 supporters, all of whom showed up to volunteer their suggestions and services. “Rather than moving on and finding another illegal space,” Patrick said, “the time is right for us to make something that can last. It’s been stressful to be involved with a place that can’t sustain legal attention. Rather than have a space that you can’t advertise, we want this to be legally airtight. [We want a venue that] people can feel comfortable going to because it’s a known entity.”
Until last month, the very existence of the Market Hotel, though we all knew of it, was not easily verifiable. Since its opening in 2008, the venue had little presence but a MySpace page and a listing on Patrick’s website. Even the venue’s name was hazy, sometimes referred to by the Google-trumping name “The Harket Motel.”
Nevertheless, over the course of its short existence, the Hotel has been a hub of the DIY music scene in Brooklyn as well as a tour-stop for bands from all over the world. (Better-known names include Real Estate, No Age, and Cold Cave.) There have been numerous magazine launches and dance parties hosted by outside promoters at the venue, while rooftop yoga classes offered under the name Body Actualized Control are a recent addition. According to Patrick, the Market Hotel has hosted more than a hundred events.
With the space closed (it may remain open for daytime events) and its legal status pending, Patrick has taken the opportunity to reassess the Hotel as a venue that serves a wider audience in the neighborhoods whose borders it marks: Bedford-Stuyvesant and Bushwick. “We want to remain a place focused on indie punk but also open to other parts of the community,” he said. He emphasized his intentions to collaborate with community organizations, offering daytime guitar classes and visual arts programming. “There are lots of folks around the area who are from here [Bushwick and Bed-Stuy] but who have never been in here. We want as many people as possible to feel comfortable coming here. We want the Hotel to be a diverse, multicultural space.”
Patrick also announced that he was planning to reach out to other organizations and spaces with a DIY mandate in Brooklyn and Manhattan, naming Cinders Gallery, Death by Audio, Showpaper, and Less Artists More Condos. He set a rough timeline of one year until the Hotel’s official reopening, but stressed that the pace was contingent on the success of fundraising and the status of the entity’s 501©(3) filing with the IRS, a process that can take from six months to a year.
Until the Market Hotel Project can accept donations as a legal nonprofit, they plan to do fundraising through the online donation site Kickstarter, as well as hosting a “high-profile benefit concert” at another venue sometime this autumn. Once nonprofit status is approved, the Hotel is hoping it can count on donations from wealthy individuals. To this end, a board of directors comprised of cultural luminaries could help, Patrick said. “This DIY thing we have is really just continuing a legacy that we didn’t start. We’re reaching out to [that] legacy by having these names on the board, making us more attractive to donors.”
Patrick has been one of the most visible figures in the Brooklyn music scene for years. (His involvement as a promoter most recently brought him across the border to Monterrey, Mexico, where he planned the much-publicized MtyMx, generally considered a success despite a number of logistical problems.) But he emphasized that making the new Market Hotel a board-run organization will decentralize authority. “I hate to sound like a megalomaniac, but it’s not just the Todd P. project. The idea is not to glorify any one person.”
At the meeting, Patrick estimated that the cost of reopening the venue as a functioning entity and bringing the building up to code will be $100,000. (Owned by the New Hope Apostolic Church of Christ, the building dates to the 1870s and once housed a commercial bank. Apart from minor alterations it has remained unaltered.) He outlined the planned renovation efforts, encouraging any members of the audience with experience as expediters or with ties to licensed architects to come forward. He also mentioned that he needed contractors to bring the space up to code as a “place of assembly,” as certified by the Department of Buildings, with modern amenities: “We want to do more than the bare minimum,” he said. “We want, for example, a rooftop deck, a wheelchair ramp, and wheelchair-accessible bathrooms.” He also mentioned sprinklers, a better stage, and a quality sound-system.
The supporters assembled at the April meeting were asked to bring their own ideas forward for improvements and fundraising. One young man wearing a rainbow-colored jacket suggested a benefit auction. Mark Brinda and Colin Ilgen, founders of Newtown Radio, a Bushwick-based webstream, offered to donate proceeds from their Monday night showcase at the Brooklyn Knitting Factory. A law student named Kyle said he wanted to help with legal issues, to “harness his powers for good.”
Patrick said that the Hotel would operate using the traditional non-profit practices, stressing the need for grant writers and project managers. Though many in the room suggested they wanted to volunteer, Patrick suggested that a community-run organization with a DIY ethos does not preclude remuneration: “The budget I’ve presented includes the idea of paying people. Because as nice as it is to have volunteers, things go faster when they’re paid.”
MIMI LUSE is a Brooklyn-based journalist.