March 13, 2005
DIRECTIONS | IN THE CLUBS
By BEN SISARIO
The economics of running a nightclub in Manhattan can be brutal. Besides rent and insurance, there are utilities, those 1 a.m. calls to the plumber and, oh yes, all those musicians to pay. Two long-running downtown clubs, Luna Lounge and Fez, are closing this month, and others are struggling.
So the financial plan of the Stone, a new club that plans to open in April at Avenue C and Second Street in the East Village, seems to defy logic: 100 percent of the money from the door will go to the musicians and no alcohol, food or anything else will be sold inside, says John Zorn, the avant-garde composer who is the club’s artistic director. The most musician-friendly clubs in the city generally give no more than 75 percent of the door and rely heavily on alcohol sales. How will the Stone make it work? With a little help from Mr. Zorn and his friends.
The club’s operating budget is to be raised through sales of limited-edition CD’s, which will be produced at minimal expense. Recording time will be donated by the bassist Bill Laswell at his studio in New Jersey, and manufacturing will be handled free by Mr. Zorn’s record label, Tzadik, and his chief contractor, A to Z Music Services. The CD’s will be sold online, at cost, by the Downtown Music Gallery, a longtime booster. The club itself, in a former Chinese restaurant, is being rented from a filmmaker friend. The first CD will probably feature Mr. Zorn, the vocalist Mike Patton and Mr. Laswell, Mr. Zorn said.
“We can sell 4,000 copies at $20 and run the place on $80,000 a year,” he said. That would cover the rent, insurance and utilities, as well as a fee for Daniel Goldaracena, who will run the club’s day-to-day operations. Bookings will be done by musicians in rotating monthlong curatorships; the first, for April, is the saxophonist Ned Rothenberg. “This is about a community coming together,” Mr. Zorn said. “The downtown scene is so diverse that it eludes classification, but it functions as a community, with people helping each other.”