Always happy to see a little incongruity in the mix, we welcomed the opening of Believe Lounge, a two-story gypsy museum now converted into a multilevel bar on the normally staid block of 36th Street and Fifth Avenue. More East Village than Murray Hill, Believe is a comparably quirky entry on a street whose great post-work draws are upscale beer pub Ginger Man and its across-the-street tequila equivalent, Under the Volcano. The brainchild of self-described “eccentric enchantress” Chynna Soul, this is perhaps the first bar to come with its own mantra: “You are the Energy that Shines or Shades another’s Soul, be Conscious of YOU.” (It’s even printed on the business cards.)
While Soul’s union with the cosmos might sound off-putting, her artistic bent yields one cozy, refreshingly offbeat drinking den. With a skill for refurbishing found furniture, Soul lines lampshades and couch headrests with fur, and dresses up office chairs in gold lamé shirts. She plunks in the occasional park bench for use as a sofa, or a ’50s hair-drying station as a stand-in armchair. The gypsy element comes from her penchant for gold-leaf side tables, gilded mirrors, and opulent, velvet-draped furniture (including the bed next to the bar). With the entire space lit only by soft red lights and candles, visitors can just make out the random, typed-out words and curious metal figurines forming an ad-hoc collage under the glass-topped tables.
Soul slaved away for years as a hairstylist before making the big dream happen, completely gutting the 2,500-square-foot space in 1998 to convert it into a private venue for events and parties, which she dubbed the Gypsy Art’ist MUSEum. Unfortunately, as a bar open to the public six nights a week, we wonder how financially profitable this enterprise will be. Soul is clearly banking on the young, moneyed Murray Hill crowd to shell out $12 for the Southern Comfort-spiked punch Typsy Gypsy or the Sangria Soul (sangria pumped up with Ketel One and Champagne). That’s still way too steep, considering most of the specialty cocktails do not even use fresh ingredients but bottled juices like Fuze. After 10 p.m., she slaps on a two-drink minimum charge.
Looks like Ginger Man it is.