Say it ain't so. Alive and kicking since 1886, Webster Hall is closing its doors this week for a few years of renovations and will reopen under new ownership afterward. It's safe to say this is certainly the end of an era.
Webster Hall was recently sold to Brooklyn Sports Entertainment and AEG Presents (think, The Barclay's Center and Terminal 5) and in May, all employees were served termination notices. It was announced in recent months that the space will reopen under corporate management and will feature less of the world famous dance and club nights.
A breeding ground for New York City's finest musicians and the thriving bohemian culture of the Village, Webster Hall saw talents such as Pete Seeger, Woody Guthrie, Bob Dylan, and more throughout the 1950s and 60s. And in recent years, it has seen names like The Killers, Green Day, John Mayer, Charli XCX, Good Charlotte, Bleachers, and more.
The Greenwich Village Historical Society said it best: "Webster Hall’s played an extraordinary role in the cultural development of the Village from the start. The labor leaders, activists, intellectuals, musicians, artists, and bohemians that danced, cheered, argued, and reveled under its roof and in front of its façade all added to and, in some ways. created the notion of the Village as a place on the forefront of social issues and of entertainment. The intact, elegantly detailed façade of Webster Hall has sheltered some of the Village’s most infamous moments, and this first modern night club deserves to be an individual landmark.”
In 2007, the building and its annex were marked a New York City Landmark by the Landmarks Preservation Commission, and in 2008, the venue expanded more and opened The Studio at Webster Hall at the basement level of the venue, accessed through a cellar door on the street level.
The historic East Village nightclub and concert venue sits on East 11th Street between Third and Fourth Avenues, and the walk from the Union Square subway hub to the corner of 11th and Third is one I know well. If it were a sunny day or a nice night, you could probably catch my friends and me making the trek from Penn Station all the way there, just for fun.
I've seen my favorite band, Paradise Fears, play Webster Hall four times in the past four years. Once in the Grand Ballroom, with a capacity of 1,500, as they opened for Andy Grammer on his 2015 tour.
Once in the Marlin Room, which has a capacity of 600, but the band only released 200 tickets to make the show feel more intimate. It was 2014, I was 15, but I said I was 16 to get into the show.
And twice in The Studio, which quickly became my favorite concert spot in the city. An intimate performance space with low ceilings and a capacity of 400, I can't think of a better spot to see your favorite band perform. In January 2016 and 2017, Paradise Fears played one-night-only shows in New York in The Studio, since they are not as active in touring or making music as they used to be, but still have plenty of loyal fans willing to come see a show. This was the best spot in the whole city to host it. But now that it's closed, where will the annual show be held?
So yes, Webster Hall is closing, and I'm kind of devastated. Sure, it's reopening in a few years and we'll all be grateful for the updated bathrooms, but the grime, the dirt, the look, the tight spaces... that's all that makes Webster Hall, well, Webster Hall. And now it won't really be the same.
Luckily, the Ballinger Brothers (long-time owners of the club) went out with a bang. The "End of an Era" celebration shows have been closing out the beloved space over the past two weeks, and according to Metro NY News, there was "no curfew. Skrillex, along with other artists, led a crazed all-nighter beginning on Saturday and lasting into Sunday until almost 7 AM, when security staff shut down the music."
Now that's Webster Hall in a nutshell. See you in 2019.