Notorious bikini bar Tobacco Road will finally get a new lease of life as a four-story venue for the Queer community when Red Eye NYC opens on W41st Street.
The once-gritty dive bar at 355 W41st Street between 8th and 9th Avenue was shuttered in 2017 for failing to pay its rent, but five years on, a round-the-clock space offering coffee, bagels, shared workspaces and rehearsal rooms by day and high-end entertainment and cocktails at night is to rise from Tobacco Road’s ashes in spectacular style.
Red Eye NYC is the brainchild of Taylor Shubert, Daniel Nardicio, Samuel Benedict and Adam Klesh, who were determined to bring a “whole new concept” to Hell’s Kitchen for the Queer community. Their work is nearing completion and they hope to have permissions from the city in place within weeks, allowing them to open by the end of the year.
The venue has a long history — including as a concert venue that played host to luminaries including Thelonius Monk and Etta James — and that history has inspired the Red Eye NYC team.
By day, the theater will offer rehearsal space, with Queer performers a priority. When not rented, it will be open for everything from piano playing to ballet practice. Red Eye NYC will also host streamed events, and plans to have its own podcast, recording on-site.
By night it will be a raucous venue for burlesque and boylesque personalities, DJs, drag royalty and stars of Broadway and television. They will have a happy hour and promise to have some sort of event every night somewhere between 7 and 9pm.
The four founders have spent the past few months on a massive program of renovations, detailing their work on the Red Eye NYC Instagram feed, including stripping the building back to the studs, pouring concrete and installing up-to-date appliances. They even helped out with the caulking.
The team has deep Hell’s Kitchen roots. Klesh opened W52nd Street’s Industry Bar and Shubert has been a bartender at 9th Avenue’s Flaming Saddles for almost eight years. He has also represented Hell’s Kitchen as a Democratic Party judicial delegate and a member of its New York county committee.
The foursome say they want the “pink dollar” to stay in the gay community, and plan to champion Queer-owned suppliers for every part of the business, including wine-makers and other drink suppliers.
SEE WHAT ELSE IS ARRIVING IN HELL’S KITCHEN
Shubert told W42ST: “The four of us have worked together for years putting on events in New York, Fire Island, New Orleans and other locations across the country.
“We run the ‘legendary’ Dworld Fire Island Underwear Party together, which Daniel started almost 20 years ago. Daniel was an owner of Club Cumming, which Sam general managed. We are so excited to be a part of the vibrant Hell’s Kitchen community.”
Current reigning Stoli Key West Cocktail Classic Bartending Champion Benedict is curating the cocktail menu, while all four have been lining up performers for the club, with plans to feature Nicky Doll, Corey Craig, Joey With The Mustache and Johnny Dynell.
When W42ST visited last week, work was well under way on the smart and clean new look which will greet customers. In contrast, when W42ST last visited Tobacco Road before it closed, we noted it had “character in spades,” including a hippo’s head on the wall. It was named the Village Voice’s best dive bar of 2011.
Red Eye NYC is at 355 W41st Street, between 8th and 9th Avenue. Follow them on Instagram @redeye_ny and online at redeyeny.com. Watch this space for the opening date and mwantime check out Hell’s Kitchen best LGBTQIA+ focused bars and restaurants in our guide.