Death & Co. just got an extension on life. Last call at the speakeasy-like restaurant-bar in the East Village is now open until 2 a.m. instead of midnight, following a long battle with the New York State Liquor Authority (SLA).
“Between 11 a.m. and 2 a.m. is where a lot of New York restaurants, bars and cocktail lounges make a lot of their money,” said David Kaplan, co-owner of Death & Co. “What really hurt us most was the lost revenue. We’re missing a huge amount of customers for over two years, closing at midnight. And the lost revenue is up there in the hundreds of thousands of dollars.”
Death & Co. has a dark mystique. The seating-room only venue is dimly lit by candlelight and chandeliers and features cuisine and a long list of specialty cocktails. Although the unassuming bar tucked away from the bustle of First Avenue was granted its liquor license in July, it recently introduced its new hours in late October, closing at 1 a.m. Sunday through Thursday and 2 a.m. on Friday and Saturday.
The new hours have already banked a 20 percent increase in profit for the once embattled bar whose owners have dished out close to $50,000 in legal fees.
“If we hadn’t got the hours, I don’t think we would have had to close,” said Kaplan who continued serving alcohol as the appeal was heard. “There was no point where that was even an option. We knew we had a big fight ahead of us, but we never thought that it would end in closure. It was that we may be forced to close from the SLA decisions.”
Kaplan, whose bar opened in January 2007, says a paperwork mistake prevented the venue from serving alcohol past midnight. The SLA pulled the license amid relentless complaints from neighbors and coarse criticism from Community Board 3. Despite the loss, Death has been able to survive and thrive, even with its early hours.
Alex Day, who has been bartending at Death & Co. for just over two years, first started coming as a patron. Day says he was “baffled” by the noise complaints.
“It is pretty quiet,” said Day. “We get a good amount of people in here and we have an active environment but it’s never loud and out of control by any means. And that’s certainly what it was like from day one when I came as a patron.”
Susan Stetzer, district manager for Community Board 3 where commercial noise complaints are one of the highest in New York City, says there haven’t been any recent complaints against Death & Co. Local cops had no record of violations against the bar either.
With less complaints and the paperwork in order, bartenders are also reaping the benefits of a later close.
“Money’s definitely better” said Brian Miller, a 15-year bartending veteran who’s been mixing and concocting drinks since the bar’s opening. “When you bartend from six to midnight it just doesn’t feel like you’re a real bartender when your bartending.”
Although new customers are slow to catch on to the new hours, the bartenders say that both the new and loyal ones are delighted by the new hours.
Peter Rhodes, who has come to the bar three times, says he always found the early hours strange. “I’ve been turned away because it was too late, so I’m pleased about the extended hours,” he said tossing back a beer.
Once he learned that the place had noise complaints, he said, “I find it shocking. There’s never a line outside. It’s not loud inside. It’s more of neighborhood type-foolery.”