In January, a fire broke out in the basement of Black Crescent (76 Clinton Street; 212-477-1771), putting the LES cocktail bar out of business. After months of repairs and fundraising with the help of the industry community, the bar is getting ready to open its doors again.
Faulty wiring in the building sparked the fire, which took out the office and liquor room. The fire climbed up the walls, creating smoke damage in the dining room. As traumatic as it was, it gave owners Michael Reynolds, Carlos Baz, and chef Dustin Everett the chance to rework the space. “The biggest nightmare for anyone opening a bar is opening the same place twice,” says Reynolds. “The one upside is that it allowed us to tighten everything up behind the bar and in terms of aesthetics,” says Reynolds.
The brownstone facade is now a cool slate color, new windows have been installed (the fire department shattered the old ones putting out the blaze) and the walls have been reworked with cement and plaster to look aged; before the fire, just one wall had the desired patina. The guys covered the bathroom walls with wallpaper made from old Angostura labels.
A re-opening okay from the building department could come in the next week or so. When it does, much of the menu will pick up Everett’s seafood-centric fare. Black Crescent will continue to feature oysters, including the namesake Black Crescents from New Brunswick, and the same beloved gumbo as well as favorite dishes like pastrami-cured and hickory-smoked salmon over black squid ink brioche. The only big change will be a new late-night menu, featuring sliders like Chicago-style grilled monkfish with Windy City-style hot dog toppings. “Everything is going to be pretty much the same as before the fire,” says Reynolds. “We had a pretty good thing going.”
The beverage program, all about boldly flavored drinks, includes old reliables like the El Burro (cilantro-infused mezcal with fresh lime juice and toasted coriander salt) and the Hemp and Halter, a take on the Negroni made with hickory-smoked vermouth. Summer offerings are slated to debut as well, such as the Five Dollar Shake; chocolate-infused green Chartreuse shaken with whole egg and a nice serving of bourbon; inspired from the shake scene in Pulp Fiction.
In many ways, the experience has been harrowing for the crew, but at the same time, they’ve found an impressive support network in the rest of the NYC bar community. The night the fire broke out, staff from local restaurants boarded up the windows and swept the glass from the sidewalks as Reynolds, Baz, and Everett were trying to cope with the stress.
The following weekend, Erika Ordoñez held a fundraiser at TriBeCa’s Ward III to help the guys rebuild. There was so much assistance, in fact, that the team didn’t even get to take advantage of all of it. Bars and bartenders donated space and tips to help the staff financially and to build momentum in getting Black Crescent up-and-running again. “It was refreshing to be a part of all that,” says Reynolds. “So much of what the industry feels like is competition. In reality, when someone has something shitty happen to them, like us, it’s nice to have everyone rally around. We just want everyone to know how thankful we are.”
This article from the Village Voice Archive was posted on June 5, 2015