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A gritty-meets-glamorous cocktail bar with dramatic flair is about to debut on Restaurant Row. Meet Lady Blue, named after a character in the classic show Torch Song Trilogy and about to take up residence at the former House of Brews on W46th Street.
The team at HK Hospitality — responsible not only for the House of Brews but for Hell’s Kitchen hits like Dolly Varden, Mom’s Kitchen & Bar and the newly-minted Peachy Keen — sought out theatrical inspiration for their latest venture, in hopes of minting a tribute to the area’s past and present creative community. Already in a 1970s groove from their research for Peachy Keen, they took a deep dive into the defining plays and musicals of the era.
“We did our homework and looked through tons of Broadway showbills, inspirational Broadway quotes, famous actors and playwrights from the 1970s and 1980s,” said Patrick Schmidt, Executive Director of HK Hospitality. After stumbling on Torch Song Trilogy, Harvey Fierstein’s seminal play exploring gay identity in the early 80s, the team decided to zero in.
“Torch Song Trilogy was one that was easy to draw inspiration from, because not only was it a classic Broadway show back then, but there was also a movie,” Schmidt said. “We were able to watch the movie and draw inspiration from it. I feel it’s an oft-forgotten show in the annals of Broadway history, but it perfectly encapsulates a specific period in New York City and on Broadway, ” he added that Fierstein captured “a time in New York that was probably pretty challenging for New Yorkers, but also exciting because things were changing.”
The team chose one of the minor characters in the show, the torch singer Lady Blue (known as Lady Blues in the show) as the linchpin of their concept. “We don’t want it to be too on the nose, but it’s a nod to an era of New York past without being too recognizable,” Schmidt added. “We felt that the name would tie in well with the performing arts sector and Broadway community, while also subtly reviving the narrative of this play and this character and this piece of art that I think is not well known in today’s Broadway scene.”
Working with architectural design firm Wid Chapman (who also helped develop the brand identity at Peachy Keen), Schmidt and the team at HK Hospitality focused on crafting a moody, intimate ambiance at Lady Blue.
“We are drawing off the time period, the show and that character,” said Schmidt. “It’s designed to be a mix of high-brow and low-brow. It’s not overly done — it’s elegant, but it’s not unapproachable.” They hope to be a welcoming watering hole not only to visitors but also to cement their place as another Bar Centrale-style hangout to the Broadway community. “We hope to be a Hell’s Kitchen and theater community spot rather than a Times Square tourist trap,” added Schmidt. “We hope that everyone from theatergoers to the actors to producers, crew and theater staff will come in. We have the opportunity to further connect the Broadway community and the hospitality community.”
The team at HK Hospitality has developed a menu of specialty cocktails and funky shareable snacks perfect for an after-show happy hour. “We wanted each drink to have its own story — really thoughtful presentation and really fun names, ” said Schmidt, adding that some of the current offerings have theatrical names — like the whiskey-infused Thai iced tea One Night in Bangkok (Chess), while Up in Smoke (which features a mezcal and a lavender joint) is a cheeky reference to the counterculture of 70s and 80s New York. “We’re not trying to be too on the nose, but in the Broadway community in the 70s and the neighborhood in the 70s marijuana was a thing, and well, it’s a thing now,” he laughed. “The drinks are memorable and there are drinks at Lady Blue that you haven’t seen anywhere else in the city.”
The food menu, a collaboration between Director of Business Development Kimberly De Jesus and the chefs from their other establishments, will feature a raw bar and elevated takes on classic bar snacks — think Halloumi fries and kettle chips with caviar dip. “We’re keeping the high-brow/low-brow mix,” said Schmidt. “We’re taking something that’s very elevated and appears fancy, like caviar, but simplifying it in the presentation so that it feels approachable.”
The space at Lady Blue, transformed from its House of Brews days, is something that Schmidt is excited about. While they were sad to close the House of Brews, “we’re familiar with the transitioning of the restaurant business — if you’ve followed our company over the years you Jolly Monk became Mom’s, the other House of Brews became Dolly Varden and New York Beer Company became Peachy Keen. It speaks to the relationships we have with the community and the landlords, and it’s always exciting to see the transformation of a space through the eyes of the customers and people in the neighborhood who knew what it was before.”
The bar is just a few days from officially opening on Friday. The team plans to offer daily dinner service from 4 to 11pm with drinks until 2am and will offer brunch service on weekends come October. Looking ahead, Schmidt is hopeful that many a theater lover — and maybe even Torch Song’s Fierstein himself — will stop by. “Once we get it up and running, we would love to connect with him and anybody else that was involved in bringing the production to life,” said Schmidt. “We’d like to invite them in for a great time, but also to thank them for giving us the inspiration for Lady Blue.”
Lady Blue is located at 363 W46th Street between 8th and 9th Avenue.