Can a 'New' Old Bar Rescue the Meatpacking District?

Nice wallpaper, folks.
photo: Corina Zappia

It's always a little suspect when bars—with the same owners and same venue—relaunch under a different name. What went wrong the first time, you wonder, that necessitated an interior-decorating overhaul?

R&R's former incarnation, Rare, was indeed just that: rare. Even though the Meatpacking District has devolved into B&T club void, the unassuming performance space hadn't seemed to take much notice, drawing in a mostly subdued crowd just there to see the night's featured DJ. Nothing was particularly exceptional about Rare, as we recall, but nothing was hideously egregious either. (We'd argue that this onetime meat locker's finest occupant was the now long-gone Cooler.)

Perhaps in an effort to fit in with the rest of the new upscale Meatpacking District, the owners chose to remodel Rare. Brown crocodile lines the bar lounge area, and black and white patent leather seating dots the main room, matching the newly painted polka-dotted walls. The drink menu, still in the works when we visited, boasts a number of themed cocktails to suit all types. Choose from an array of $10 specialty concoctions like the girly Misty Mountain (Malibu coconut rum and pineapple juice) and Backstage Pass (Stoli vanil, 7-Up, and orange juice); the citrusy La Bamba (Patrón tequila, Cointreau, pineapple juice, and orange juice); and the barfy yet effective High Voltage (Jagermeister and Red Bull).

The space is attractive, the cocktails are potent albeit pricey ($8 for well drinks) and the open-door policy is a wise choice. To really draw in the crowd, however, requires more than just bringing in consultants for a facelift. When we asked a bartender the reason for the revamp, she simply replied, "Beats the hell out of me, I still call it Rare." Actually, the space is now more suited for a dance club than performance venue, but that would entail scoring the holy nightlife grail, oh precious cabaret license.

Sigh. We're always on the lookout for something to take down Lotus.

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