Webster Hall Is Returning With Its Old Grit (and New Bathrooms)

Webster Hall Is Returning With Its Old Grit (and New Bathrooms)

The East Village rock and dance club Webster Hall is preparing to reopen in April after a series of major renovations.CreditCreditJeenah Moon for The New York Times

By Ben Sisario

When the doors open in April at the renovated Webster Hall — the East Village club, once known as the Ritz, that was renowned for its mix of rock shows and raucous dance parties — music fans will find a revamped entryway and lounge, new bathrooms and upgraded acoustics.

But the most important change may simply be the arrival of an elevator.

Webster Hall, housed in an 1886 building, part of which has been declared a landmark, is a rabbit warren of staircases and anterooms that surround a grand ballroom. But without an elevator, handicapped patrons had to be carried inside and loading equipment was a daily ordeal.

“On a regular tour, whatever city they were in, they’d have two or four loaders,” said Jim Glancy of the concert promotion company the Bowery Presents, which is one of the new owners. “At Webster Hall, the minimum would be 12 people.”

The new elevator is one of a number of subtle changes meant to bring the club, just off Union Square, up to contemporary standards, reintroducing it to fans and to an industry that has been hungry for a room of its size — the ballroom holds 1,400 people — in a central part of Manhattan. “This room has been needed — we felt its absence,” said Marty Diamond of Paradigm Talent Agency, who booked the club in its 1980s iteration as the Ritz.

Sharon Van Etten on May 4; Broken Social Scene on May 16 and 17; and MGMT from May 22 to 24.

Webster Hall, long an independently owned space, was bought two years ago by BSE Global, the parent company of Barclays Center, and the Bowery Presents, which is partly owned by the concert giant AEG, for a price estimated at about $35 million.

When the club shut down in August 2017 for renovations, there was an outcry from fans who worried that Webster Hall’s history as a dance mecca and a center of gay night life in New York would be lost. The new owners say they are committed to preserving that tradition, but are still deciding how.

“It was a very democratic club that was all about variety, and we intend to bring that variety back when we reopen,” said Keith Sheldon, BSE Global’s executive vice president of programming.

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