By Mike Borowski
For the first time in a decade, the West Village is welcoming a completely brand-new gay bar. With its evocative speakeasy entrance and slick new design, PLAYHOUSE BAR is here. And it’s brought to you by the same team behind two winning nightlife staples, the long-running Pieces nearby Playhouse on Christopher Street and Hardware in Hell’s Kitchen.
Co-owners Eric Einstein and Justin Buchanan are offering a swankier environment, but with the same winning formula their bars are known for: friendly bartenders, daily happy hour specials, top-notch DJs and the best drag shows by favorite local entertainers.
“We’ve been looking to open another gay bar in the West Village for a long time,” says Einstein. “Even with the migration of bars northward, the West Village has always remained a destination for gay locals and tourists. The crowds here are fiercely loyal to their favorite haunts but also enjoy bar-hopping up and down the entire street.”
Proving his point is the recent, infamous night that Adele and Jennifer Lawrence spent together at Pieces. That outing made headlines around the world, and Pieces saw its notoriety—and attendance—skyrocket. It also shined anew a spotlight on the neighborhood.
For their third location, the two men found an ideal spot on Seventh Avenue, just south of historic Sheridan Square, which is the birthplace of the modern LGBT movement. PLAYHOUSE reimagines the actual site of the storied Actors Playhouse Theatre, a stage that boasted diverse gay cultural touchstones from the original production of Harvey Fierstein’s Torch Song Trilogy to the premiere of Naked Boys Singing!
Keeping the name PLAYHOUSE is a nod to the space’s rich theatrical history, but it is also a playful wink to what nights there will have in store for you. A more substantial example of the space embracing its past is the newly built stage, ideal for drag shows and performances.
“When we envisioned what this new bar would offer, it was important to us to offer a sumptuous space,” says Buchanan. “We wanted to create a lounge unlike anything else in the neighborhood. But it was also important to nurture a welcoming vibe and continue to support local performers and artists.”
Your journey to PLAYHOUSE begins at the ground-level location of the theater’s original box office and ticket window. (Don’t worry, admission is free!) Once admitted, you journey Alice-like on her way to Wonderland down the rabbit hole on a stairwell descent to another world. The space’s gut-renovated design boasts a stunning original mural by renowned artist Anthony Pugh (street tag: Logik One) that pays homage to the vibrant subway art of the 1980s.
Einstein and Buchanan are putting the final touches on their new baby. Then, the HOUSE that the Hardware and Pieces duo have built is all yours to PLAY in.