By Alex Distefano
By Scott Snowden
By Anna Merlan
By Steve Almond
By Jena Ardell
By Jon Campbell
By Alan Scherstuhl
By Tessa Stuart
Scenic, the bi-level music venue on Avenue B, has been open less than a year, and it's already closing for renovations on February 26. But it's overhauling more than its appearance. Sources say three of its six investors are uncomfortable with the club's "direction."
"I was told that [the investors] are unhappy with the gay direction, the hiring of gay bartenders, and are trying to get a more posh, carnival type of vibe," says Spencer Product, who throws the Friday-night party Hot Fuckin' Pink with Sophia Lamar. Pink and Rated X: The Panty Party, the Saturday-night weekly, run by Theo and Motherfucker's Michael T, are the venue's most popular parties. Lamar adds, "We were the only parties that were moneymakers."
"The stupid part is, our party is not really gay," says Product. The investorsnone would speak to me, but they designated the club's new decorator Saundra Schwartzkopf as their spokespersonare reportedly uncomfortable with the nights' gay vibe and Rated X's highly publicized nudity during its Hot Body Contest. Photographs of the shenanigans are frequently posted on websites like Gawker.com and Myopenbar.com. The investors, whosources say have never owned a club, "started to see racy pictures online and got freaked out." scott Long informed Michael T and Theo of the closure January 30, around the same time the club got a cabaret violation from the dance police.
Schwartzkopf, though, denies bias. "I'm not aware whatsoever of canceling any kind of party because any kind of gay issue," she says. Schwartzkopf was unable or unwilling to confirm many details, including who was staying with the company, redesign plans, or the type of food they will start serving. She did say, "Scenic opened under the front of being about live rock."
Three of the investors Kenai Sehgal, Oliver Sehgal, and Adam Carrollare buying out Charles Ryan (formerly of Wetlands), Jens Christian Sorensen, and Long. Robert Johnson, who books the club with JC Scruggs, is also leaving. Scruggs is reportedly staying, as are many of the bar's key security and bartending staff. Johnson confirmed that he and Long were leaving, but opted not to comment except to state, "I am flabbergasted." Product said of both Long and Johnson, "They've been nothing but supportive."
When first contacted, Schwartzkopf insisted the weeklies were not canceled and said that if they were leaving, it was "their own choice," adding, "I haven't even been able to meet with the promoters." But after she received questions via e-mail asking for comment about the investors' reported discomfort, she said, "[The parties] are are going to stay and potentially come back when we reopen. We are in contact with the parties." She said she hadn't spoken to the promoters in the two weeks since the decision had been made because "it's not appropriate for me to talk to the promoters."
"What she's saying is bullshit," says Product. "They were telling us our party has ended and we have to leave. This backtrack, it's like they are trying to beat me to the punchline by contacting me and having a meeting." He had yet to hear from Schwartzkopf on Thursday night.
Schwartzkopf contacted Michael T, but only after receiving the Voicee-mail, approaching him late Thursday night about possibly keeping Rated X on board. "Our decision is pending on the meeting we'll have with this so-called new management in the middle of next week," Michael T says. And the only way we will stay is if we are able to continue the party as we have for the last five months at Scenic without compromise."
As for Scenic's new image, Lamar says it was presented her as a way to attract the "beer drinking" crowd. "The only thing I can tell them," she says, "is to be careful what they are wishing for."