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FREE SWAG: Motor City Bar closing its doors after 18 years of slinging cold beers - Closing Party 6/23/13 & Final Pour 6/30/13

I first came across the Motor City Bar when I was working in Manhattan back in 1997.  I was living in Los Angeles and traveling the east coast working for a hotel chain.  We were staying at the St Regis and after the concierge learned we were hometown boys from Detroit she suggested we check out a newer place called Motorcity on the Lower East Side.  We set out on foot south stopping at various watering holes for a beer and moving on eventually landing in at the KGB Bar where the night got interesting but after a while I insisted we leave for Motor City Bar which was just down the street.  Serving from 4pm - 4am was the best news I heard all day and we made it in for last call. The bar was riddled with street signs from Detroit and decorated with memorabilia from back home.

Flash forward 6 years and a move back to Michigan where I met my future wife and discover her sister started and owns Motor City!

As you now know from a few of the New York blogs the bar is closing down this month so it would only be fitting to throw a closing party and do it right.

I asked Teresa and Jodi to jot down some final thoughts about Motor City and collected a bunch old swag from the past 18 years to giveaway to a few lucky readers (couple of vintage hoodies, tshirts, pen, magnets, womans long sleeve tee, skully cap, mug and keychain plus a new closing party tee and some other shit that will turn up after the place shuts down) email for your chance to win and read on for a cool little trip down memory lane of Motor City Bar NYC.

Motor City Bar

All lit up!

Jodi behind the bar

I've been a fixture at Motor City Bar for the last 17 years.  I started as a DJ then quickly added bartending, promoter, and event planner to the menu.  Needless to say, the place has became my living room.  Apartments are so tiny in NYC that no one has any room to entertain so people congregate in bars.  Like most local watering holes, Motor has their regulars, and ours have been with us for 17 years. I love and thank them all for their friendship and support over so many years.  Some may not be able to come as much as they used to because they have met their significant others there and have started families, but they still do come.  To me, that says something about a place.  

It's not just a bar, it's a family, a community, 
and on top of it all it's become a  Rock'n'Roll institution.

When Teresa Farnell and Charolette Lesperance came from Detroit and built the bar, there wasn't much in the way of nightlife on Ludlow St. except for Luna Lounge and Maxfish.  They were Trailblazers on the southside of Ludlow St.  I remember begging them to get a big bright sign so people would see that there was another bar down further down the street, but they never did.  Instead we did it the hard way, with Rock'n'Roll and Blue Cheese Stuffed Olive Martinis.

The girls brought Bill Nolan into the mix.  Bill brought in a slew of interesting DJ's like Pat Redding, Mike Lieberman “Trash Only”, and myself, “Jukebox Jodi.”  We set the stage and musical foundation for the “Best Bar” to go to after all of NYC's many music venue after parties.(We actually won that award and held the title for years)  I came from working at Maxwells for a long stint and I was in touch with all of the 90's plus Rock'n'Roll bands so I seemed to be the perfect fit for what Motor City was after.  I would go to all of the shows, sometimes 4 times a week and bring all of the bands back to Motor City. That put us on the map, not just for NY'rs but for the whole world.  Let's face it, NYC is a touristy spot and when all of the touring bands tell their friends, and they tell two friends, and so on and so on..... they all come to visit when they are in town.  I still go out to shows and love to host the musicians back at the bar as much as I'm able to.

I'm very saddened to know that my living room will soon be closing it's doors for good it seems.  The L.E.S.  is a far cry from the days when I had to dodge flying bullets by hiding behind the bar to the now newbie upstairs tenants complaining to the cops about noise after renting their apartments for peanuts and trying to have us closed down.   Ludlow St. and the L.E.S.  are now lined with luxury hotels and condos, wine bars, nasty dance clubs, etc. which has attracted some pretty soulless critters who lack any kind of artistic awareness it seems, especially when it comes to music. It's like they live in a land of reality TV, striving to be like the people behaving badly.  Big money is buying NYC (because apparently NYC is for sale) and is turning it into a homogenized strip-mall of lame-ass nightlife that yuppies, hipsters, millionaires, college students all seem to enjoy?  

When Maxwell's closed the first time, I moved from Hoboken, NJ to the East Village to escape the yuppie/strip-mall takeover and because I thought NYC would never allow that to happened to itself!  Not the E.V.  and the L.E.S!  It was the epicenter of art, culture, and music to me back then. Now everything looks and feels the same and I have no desire to go anywhere but Motor, Manitoba's or Otto's Shrunken Head.  Not much unique happening left except for some restaurants and a few small rock'n'roll bars that have tried to emulate Motor's vibe by putting in jukeboxes packed with generic R'n'R records.

But they forgot one very important thing, 
we never had a jukebox.  

We always had DJ's and that is how we were able to always stay one step ahead of them.  Keeping it interesting by mixing it up and slamming them with vintage vinyl and weirdo delights to make them shake their butts and  have a great time.  

DJ's collect rare records, not the kind that you can stuff into a CD jukebox.  On that note, I would like to pay homage to two other fantastic landmark music venue/bars with the best jukeboxes in the area, The Lakeside Lounge and Maxwells.  It's sad  to note that Lakeside has also come to pass and that Maxwells will be closing it's doors on July 31, 2013.   There is definitely something wrong with what is going on in this area and I'm hearing that it's happening all over the world in larger cities too.  I know that Europe has always cultivated it's artists and musicians and I have always longed for the US to follow suit.  I haven't played music in 3 years because of the high cost of a rehearsal studio and I seem to be too busy working my ass off just to keep a roof over my head.  I have to ask “Them” then, if the cost of living is so high, how can that breed any kind of creativity or anything interesting worth enjoying in life?  The “cost” in the long run will render absolutely nothing remotely exciting or unique left to entertain you.

Is Libation going to host a 60's Soul Dance party 
and have Fringed Bikini Clad Go-Go dancers 
shimmying over an open flame bar for your visual pleasure?

Doubt it.  

Unfortunately, the long run is NOW for me and the family of Motor City Bar.  It's truly the end of an era and I'm really not sure I want to be around  NYC for the next one. R.I.P. Motor City Bar, I poured my heart and soul into and and loved ever minute of it.  Gutted.

Make sure to stop by before we close on June 30th.

Closing Party scheduled for Sunday June 23rd
The Legendary Swingin Neckbreakers with special guest Jukebox Jodi kick off the party at 4pm so come early!

View invite here:

Teresa & Jeremy

Jeremy at the bar

18 years sounds like a long time.  I remember laughing with my partner when we signed the lease it was so far into the future we thought we would be in rocking chairs on porches by the time 18 years elapsed.  Turns out it was not so far away, and really the era ends in less than a month.

My partner and I opened Motor City Bar on Ludlow Street in July of 1996.  If anyone tries to tell you that running a bar is demanding work, they are flat out lying.  Sure there were the yearly stressful visits from the health department earning every penny of their salary off the ridiculous fines, the occasional ominous looking taxman envelope, those 2 bizarre times when a phony “city official” conned his way past our vigilant porters and stole the Friday night haul, but overall it is a good time job.

And the happier you are, the happy the patrons.  
The happiness bounces off the walls! 

From that fateful day in July 1996, 
Motor City was open 4pm to 4am everyday for real.  

We hosted birthdays and benefits, rock stars and regulars, the occasional wedding reception, some really fun anniversaries and tried to showcase a band or two but the sound was always terrible and the conditions cramped.  When nyc experienced the black out that one summer, we stayed open with candles and a battery powered turntable.  (The police were mad).  On September 11, we opened early and served some of the dazed people walking up from downtown.  We couldn't get deliveries for a week but as long as we had beer and ice we were open.  When hurricane Sandy hit the east coast we were the only ones on the street open (our basement wasn’t even damp). 

I go into bars now and mainly what I see is a TV on every wall, always on, always blazing.  Motor City was the anti - TV bar (save for the occasional Detroit playoff game when someone would demand we drag up our crummy old donated 24” tube).  It was our vision that you go to a bar, have a drink, talk to a stranger maybe make a friend or a mortal enemy.  And it worked like a charm.  Lots of people met their husbands/wives/life partners there.  

I count 15 weddings amongst customers and employees which is pretty good.  Breakups happened too.  Memorials.  Babies.   if you hung out there long enough – and it didn’t take very long - you became family.

So now we come to the end.  It is bittersweet; the neighborhood has changed a lot and all the regulars have long since moved away to less expensive digs, and the hipsters and artists have gotten older or been replaced by a more white collar hipster and artist crowd.

The bar never changed in 18 years.   

It spoke to the unpretentious at heart, 
and that is its legacy and why I think it will be missed.  

In a city with “pop up” everything and martini bars on every corner, it was good to have a place you knew was open, where the beer was cheap, where you could get a seat,  the drinkers and bartenders  were recognizable and you could feel comfortable.  

After almost 2 decades I will miss it dearly.  So before the last drink is poured at midnight on June 30, a very very heartful thanks to everyone – the employees and the patrons- that treated the place like their own and loved it like I loved it.  

RIP Motor City! - Teresa Farnell

go to 6:43 in the video for a visit to MCB