Stain Bar. Black Betty. Sound Fix Lounge.
The past year has seen several intriguing performance spaces in Williamsburg close. Now, add to that list MonkeyTown.
A multiple hyphenate (restaurant-bar-performance space-film house), MonkeyTown has its last day January 24.
The reasons behind the space’s closing don’t easily point to one culprit, say, the recession. The owner, Montgomery Knott, cites landlord issues, including a renovation that cost him restaurant space, and a failure on the landlords part to redo the façade, as the main reasons for their business hurting. Since July, says Knott, he’s been unable to make rent, and is suing his landlords in state Supreme Court for $1.2 million for violating a signed stipulation.
“Basically the landlords are squeezing us to get us out,” said Knott, who opened MonkeyTown at 58 N. 3rd St. in 2005. “They’re succeeding.
However, one of his landlords, Aaron Yassin, says the lease was terminated due to the non-payment of rent, which he says totals upwards of $60,000.
“Since MonkeyTown opened five years ago they failed to pay rent consistently and even before we began our construction we had to take them to court repeatedly simply to get rent payments,” said Yassin in a written statement. “(The) tenant is now using our construction that they agreed to cooperate with…in an attempt to extort over 1 million dollars from us with their meritless lawsuit.”
A requirement to pay the rent was upheld by the state Supreme Court after the lawsuit was filed last February.
With mounting debt, Knott is hoping to sell his lease, and, in light of the financial troubles, scheduled programming only up until January 24.
What initially started as an underground film and dining series in his Williamsburg loft has brought music, trapeze, burlesque and other adventurous performances to the neighborhood, and in their last few weeks, Knott has assembled a lineup that reflects MonkeyTown’s diverse programming, from film to food.
“The last two weeks…I especially went out to get artists to have the last hoorah,” said Knott. “The programming reflects a lot of what we’ve done in the last four years, just independent, experimental music that works well in the scale that we have. Then the video art – that’s really essential to what we’ve done.”
On January 23, for instance, Bushwick-based singer-songwriter Sharon Van Etten has curates a night of local music, from pop to noise to metal to comedy, with Flower of Flesh and Blood, Twin Sister, Soft Landings, and Sultan on the bill, with some surprises in store as well.
“There aren’t any spaces in Brooklyn where you can listen to music, watch a movie, and eat amazing food,” said Van Etten, who’s played the venue a handful of times. “The events held there were always so obscure and unpredictable. It would be fun to just stop by and see what was going on. Really great place to pretend you’re in another world for a while. I am very sorry that MonkeyTown is closing, but I am really grateful that he ever wanted me to be a part of his venue.”
On the video front, R. Luke DuBois, a major figure in video technology and art and a favorite of Montgomery’s, is featured January 16.
For closing night, Montgomery (who himself plays the space January 17 wit his band, The Seagull) has assembled the bands Amolvacy, Neel Murgal Ensemble, Shelley Burgon and Maria Chavez for the farewell toast.
“The thing that’s most apparent to me is how…the community of artists shaped and designed the space into what it actually became,” said Montgomery, who hopes to bring the spirit of MonkeyTown to institutional settings, such as museums that don’t have great facilities for presenting video art, down the line. “I’m grateful for the memories and the performances that I got to see over the years. The artists are really the people who made the space what it was.”
MonkeyTown (58 N. 3rd St.) closes January 24, with events scheduled every night until then. For more information, go to www.monkeytownhq.com or call 718-384-1369.