I was admittedly disappointed when I heard that 105 Riv was mysteriously closing down for “renovations” a few months ago–the bar had become a favorite during my early days in NYC. That doesn’t make very much sense, considering how broke I was from my big move to the big city, but I didn’t know much about the Lower East Side and was generally content to go wherever my favorite DJs were. Soon, my typical Wednesday night consisted of a swing by Pianos (for Sammy Bananas & Skinny Friedman’s hip-hop night) and a pit stop at Happy Endings (Ninjasonik’s dance party) before ending up at Cosmo Baker & Eli Escobar’s “BANG!” party at none other than 105 Riv. It was one of those places with a décor more pretentious than the patrons (which is meant to be a compliment), foreign bartenders willing to make your drink a little too stiff, and a commendable roster of DJs in an incredibly intimate setting. The last time I visited was when DJ AM played at BANG!–I spent six hours there that night, mostly dancing and thinking about how amazingly talented and so-fucking-cool the guy was.
My point here is that, as of Thursday, 105 Riv is back. Well, kind of.
I was also admittedly disappointed when I heard that Eldridge owner Matt Levine had been commissioned to direct the rebranding of 105 Riv as a “celebrity-driven” hotspot under the name “CV” (105 in Roman numerals). So, I stopped in to DJ Moma’s “Good Spot” party last night to take in the makeover myself. The first thing that I noticed is that the infamous stripper pole is gone (it’s for the best, believe me) and the felted black-and-white bar lighting remains. Kitschy brown wallpaper with purple and pink hypotrochoids line the walls between huge panels of flashing lights. Wooden art pieces hang over flower boxes filled with glowing rocks and prop flowers that looked straight out of The Wizard of Oz; the black leather couches were pushed to the side to make room for a dance floor that overflowed into the bar area (distinguished by taking exactly one step down).
A friend and I headed to the sparsely attended bar as a mix of David Banner, Michael Jackson, and MGMT wafted above an enthusiastic audience of beautifully dressed women and their comparably casual male companions. A disco ball spun above as I ordered my drinks and a guy in a pink button-down next to me commented, “I dressed up because I thought I had to, now my shirt’s all sweaty.” (From dancing, we hope.) He introduced me to the manager, who explained that one of the biggest changes about the lounge was that they “used to only play house music every night of the week.” (That’s just not true, but we’ll let it slide.) I asked him whether he had ever been to CV when it was 105 Riv. “No, but this is cute, right?” That’s a good word for it. I wouldn’t say it’s exactly the “warm, cozy space to hang” that Steve Lewis promised, but it definitely has that certain retro ’70s disco feel to it. So yes, it’s “cute.”
Our drinks arrived, and we quickly discovered that the look of the lounge wasn’t the only thing that had change: Two vodka well drinks cost an astounding $33. Now, I’ve spent quite a bit of time at swanky drinking holes and love myself an extra-dirty martini, but when a iced-down vodka-pineapple costs you $16.50, you better be getting a freshly cut pineapple to take home with you when you’re done. I can’t help but assume that the newly inflated celeb-priced drinks assisted in moving everyone to the dance floor as quickly as the catchy mix of hip-hop that blared overhead. We left around 3 a.m., while DJ Stimulus still held fast to a group of dance fiends with some Baltimore club–an admirable feat for a Monday night. Our recommendation for the party-seeker headed to CV: Be prepared and grab a beer (or four) beforehand, and bring a lady (or be one) to make it past the ropes at the door. Oh, and don’t count on seeing any celebrities. We didn’t.