The Recap

April 26th, 2011 Leave a comment Go to comments

12/3/10: It Is Done. On March 11, 2010, I set out to visit each of the 173 bars on this list. The initial goal was to test the feasibility of live reporting entirely by phone, and experiment with various tools to accomplish that (more below). Of course, another driver was to experience places in my neighborhood I had not yet been to. There is such a wealth of bars and restaurants below 14th St. that it's easy to find a handful of places you enjoy and stick to them, which I'd come to do after a few years, and this seemed a way to step out of the ordinary and do some exploring. The plan and ground rules are here. The Bars and Stats Attempting to describe the variety of bars, pubs, lounges, etc., in the East Village and Lower East Side is an exercise in futility. Dive bars, cocktail bars, Irish pubs, German biergartens, sports bars, sake bars, dive sports bars, Eastern European bars, dive Irish sports bars, Bulgarian dive bar lounges, underground cocktail bars, wine bars, tiki bars, hidden cocktails bars, tiki dive bars…if there is something you're looking for, you can likely find it. There were a number of openings and closings in the past 10 months, typical for the neighborhood. Some of the new openings not on the original list were added, a few were not (but may be). Four that were visited and since have closed are Aces and Eights, Doghouse Saloon, Lilly Coogan’s and Two Boots Tavern. Lilly Coogan's reopened as Coal Yard. Some other additions include Bedlam (formerly 40C), Billy Hurricanes, Cienfuegos, L’oubli, Ninth Ward, Painkiller, Queen Vic, The Draft (formerly The Blue Seats), The Horsebox, The Immigrant, and The Penny Farthing. It would be inaccurate to compare the opening/closing ratio from that list since some closed before I visited and were not included, but it is safe to say that even in a depressed economy, the neighborhood is clearly able to support new bar and restaurant openings. Indeed, the East Village has recently been referred to as a "nightscape," a district devoted to bars and restaurants not unlike the Bargain District or Garment District (good read here, about a specific bar Superdive that closed before I visited, but also about the bar situation in general). Blarney Cove closed and re-opened, and Otto’s Shrunken Head burned, closed, repaired and re-opened. 173 bars in roughly 36 weeks averages to 4.8 bars/week. In practice that wasn't the case; there were many weeks I didn't go out at all, and others where I made quite a few more stops than five. Typically a visit would include a beer, glass of wine or cocktail, often with lunch or dinner. Thankfully, the majority of bars in the neighborhood serve decent -- and sometimes quite good -- bar snacks and food. While The Marshall Stack has a "No Twitter" sign above the bar, only at Blarney Cove did a patron or bartender take issue with me typing away on my phone. Perhaps oddly, I find that distressing. Bars are places where casual conversation with fellow patrons should be encouraged, and the increased use of phones for texts/posts/updates/check-ins/etc. is having a noticeably negative impact on that. I did make an effort to put my phone down between sentences and engage with people around me, but also noticed I was far from the only person in a typical place interacting more with Facebook friends than actual people in their immediate vicinity. Tools and Techniques A smartphone is essential. It is the new pencil and pad. Why any journalist would not be equipped with a modern smartphone is beyond comprehension. I started the project using an iPhone 3, but the majority was done on an iPhone 4. When I began in March, there weren't any out-of-the-box blogs or platforms that suited my needs. That may have changed since then, with the (near) launch of Instersect, and many location-based apps. Wordpress added geolocation to their mobile app, but exporting those places as KML to display on maps didn't work well (I haven't tried recently). Wordpress did seem to be the best platform to use, so to a blog there I added the WP-Geo plugin for mapping. Unfortunately, this did not allow me to map posts as I made them, so mapping was done in advance. What worked best for this project, since the coverage areas/topics were pre-defined, was to create individual entries for each location with some boilerplate and a map. I was able to add the bulk of these posts using the Import CSV tool in Wordpress (very handy). Since the earlier version of the Wordpress iPhone app only displayed the 20 most-recent posts (this is no longer true in the current version) I built a simple page containing a drop-down menu that allowed me to jump to an entry in the blog admin using Safari, change the date of that entry to that day's date, then access the entry in the Wordpress app. Clunky, but it worked. Most entries include a photo of the bar, usually shot before entering and added to the entry from the Wordpress app. About that app…the Wordpress iPhone app is a useful tool, and without it I would have needed some other method of adding posts (which I done in the past using e-mail). However, that would not have allowed me to edit dates or categories, so the app was valuable. I have found that the latest release fails. Often. Frustratingly so. This is particularly true when you have a weak cell signal, which is often the case in brick-walled bars (not to mention basements). After losing quite a bit of work, I began writing entries in Evernote, then pasting into Wordpress, so that if Wordpress crashed or failed to update a post, I could add it later when I had a good signal, or from a PC. All posts were authored on-site, however. It would be interesting to start the project again today and see which tools (other than a smartphone) would best be suited to the task. I suspect the recipe would be considerably different, given how quickly the world of mobile and local has evolved in 2010. That's all for now. If I'm inspired to add more, the short list of new places is: The 13th Step, 149 2nd Ave., 212-228-8020 Idle Hands, 25 Avenue B (downstairs), 917-338-7090 added here
  1. July 2nd, 2011 at 11:30 | #1

    Hi, I like this post and thought you may be interested in reading about a new bar.

    As you cover New York nightlife, I thought you would be interested to know about the launch this week of Rooftop Drinker, a new website dedicated to the New York rooftop bar. Our site features reviews and high quality photos for more than 30 establishments in Manhattan and we are working on a smartphone app that will be released late this summer.

    The site is at rooftopdrinker.com. For more information on our approach and review methodology, you can read our about page at rooftopdrinker.com/about. Please get in touch if you have any questions.

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