More Dancing on the Exhausted Ashes of CBGB: Daniel Boulud’s DBGB


At about this time last year, we covered with no particular seriousness the opening of the John Varvatos clothing store in a retail space which once housed CBGB. “It means much more to me than the ringing of the registers that we did the right thing in here,” Varvatos said at the time, referring his decision to glass off and protect a tiny section of the original flyer-encrusted CBGB wall. (He was not, alas, referring to our suggestion that he fabricate for commercial purposes a cape made out of the voluminous skin of Joey Ramone or alternately, that he erect a historical diorama of an animatronic Robert Christgau punching an animatronic James Chance in the face.) Anyway, now super chef Daniel Boulud is getting in on the act. With a restaurant. Called DBGB.

The repugnant part of the this story is not the capitalist takeover of the onetime punk stronghold, but the brutal, unending nostalgia which people display for said stronghold, which, let the record show, had not been a remotely respectable venue for nearly two decades when they finally razed the whole rotting concert space and made way for a dude who retails two thousand dollar shoes that he displays in a neat semicircle at the front of the venue’s old stage. DBGB is apparently destined for Houston and Bowery, scant blocks from the Varvatos store. “Cowgirl in the Sand” by Neil Young will play during dinner.

Why a finicky French gourmand feels any form of identification whatsoever with a decrepit former punk space I’m unsure. Maybe he likes the marketing angle? Ironically, at $32 for an average three-course meal, DBGB promises to provide much better value than CBGB did for the majority of its existence. And no young punks!

    For restaurants, music is one way to influence who shows up, or at least who comes back. You can aim at a demographic group by playing music that was beloved by its members when they were about 15 years old — the age when fandom typically leaves its most vivid tattoo. By that logic, DBGB is not exactly laying a welcome mat for the just-out-of-college set. There is little in the playlist that was recorded in the last 10 years.

That is no accident.

“It’s hard to get a liquor license around here, as you may know,” Mr. Traussi says, “and one of the things I heard when I canvassed people who live here is, ‘You’ll get kids in trucker hats and they’re never going to eat food and you’re going to turn into a bar before you know it.’ I think that’s an important concern. We’re not looking for that kid, right out of school who is 22 or 23. I think music is an important way to run a food-centric restaurant rather than a bar-centric restaurant.”

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