Eagle-eyed Hell’s Kitchen residents may have spotted the sleek and striking new storefront next to Amy’s Bread. The stylish facade is home to Balcon Salon, a queer bar opening tomorrow (Thursday) from the owners behind local favorite Hardware Bar and much-loved New York LGBTQIA+ hangouts Pieces and Playhouse.
Named for the French word for balcony, Balcon Salon follows the successful formula pioneered by owners Eric Einstein and Justin Buchanan at the West Village’s Pieces, which they have operated since 2005, 10th Avenue’s Hardware Bar opened in 2012, and Greenwich Village’s Playhouse Bar, opened in 2019.
It is adorned with detailed “art deco cues,” including an interior balcony overlooking a cabaret-style performance stage. “There’s definitely a strong design conversation” between Balcon and their most recent venue Playhouse, said Eric — though he explained that Balcon will have an entirely new feel. “We cannot wait to give Hell’s Kitchen an LGBTQ nightlife venue like it has never seen before,” he added.
In keeping with Pieces, Playhouse and Hardware’s popular happy hours and sold-out drag performances, Balcon will also offer half-priced well drinks on weekdays, added Eric, who recommended that guests try the off-menu Balcontini, too!
Serving up those Balcontinis will be an exciting roster of cocktail specialists, DJs and performers. Justin told us he was proud to partner with a top-notch team ahead of their opening. “We’ve hired the best bartenders in the industry,” Justin said, “You’ll see favorite faces from NYC and Fire Island behind the bar, as well as charismatic cocktail servers (aka: our cocktailers) on the floor.”
He says they’re the perfect mix, “There’s always staff available [to hire], it’s good staff that’s hard to find — staff that works the way that we work and is a good fit for our organization in terms of being able to take on responsibility and really be aware and in control of the room,” he added. “They’re not just showing up and pouring drinks — they’re the ones setting the tone for us.”
Eric and Justin began setting the tone for Balcon when they spotted the empty space at a former dry cleaning business on 9th Avenue. They hoped to take on the building from its previous owners back in 2018 — and made their original licensing application at the time with a concept called “Broken Matilda”. After the building was sold to another landlord, they were able to secure the storefront and sign a lease in 2021, beginning massive renovations on the space to get it happy hour ready.
“It was a long road to get to the lease, and our first try at building a new space,” said Eric. It was a long construction process. Working to replace everything from broken beams to creating an elevator for ADA access, the “complete gut job” was a long dance between contractors, community boards and neighbor approvals, he added, but they are excited to finally open their second Hell’s Kitchen bar.
Having invested in the neighborhood more than a decade ago, “when we signed that lease [for Hardware] on 10th Avenue, I was like, ‘is this a mistake?’ No one lives over here!” said Eric. “And eventually, 10th Avenue started filling in all the way down to the river.”
Although countless other LGBTQIA+ bars have flourished in the neighborhood in the years since Hardware staked a claim on 10th Avenue, Eric believes that there’s still room for a new venue in the competitive Hell’s Kitchen market. “This is the neighborhood for gay nightlife right now — I don’t know where else we would be except for here and in the Village. Competition is competition — I think we have a better product!” he said.
“Balcon is completely different from anything we’ve done before, and it is a venue unlike any other queer space in New York City. For our fourth project, we really wanted to create a unique mood. A vibe. An experience,” Justin added.
“Hell’s Kitchen is a vibrant, essential neighborhood in New York City. It’s been an honor to work with the local community for the past 11 years at Hardware, and we look forward to continuing to serve it with a second, completely different experience.”
Balcon Salon is located at 674 9th Avenue (between W46/47th Street) and will open Thursday October 19.