It was around 2 a.m. on Saturday, September 21, when a dozen officers — including a smattering of cops, fire men, and building department officials — found their way into Apostrophe. The police had come by before, but owner Ki Smith, 21, knew this wasn’t one of their “normal trips.”
Back in May, the brothers were given a ticket for people loitering and smoking outside the venue. That came after warnings and what had started becoming fairly routine visits from law enforcement. “Usually we were able to just talk to them,” Ki said. But this was different. “The whole thing was pretty dramatic.”
Prior to the raid, Ki and his co-owner and brother Sei, 23, had spent quite a bit of time promoting Apostrophe’s first anniversary weekend. The gallery-cum-party-pad-and-
With Apostrophe growing into everything they’d dreamed it would be (and some things they’d never even thought of), the Smiths resolved to make the venue’s one-year birthday into their biggest celebration yet. The anniversary event, branded cryptically as a “Complex Reality,” was no secret. The event had been advertised on their Facebook and website, in addition to being posted on many local blogs. “We got a bit too … confident,” Ki admitted in retrospect.
The night started out with a gallery opening curated by Dennis Yang, 22, an SVA student and friend of the Smiths who moved to New York from Singapore. There was wine, cheese, and no suspicion of chaos to come.
Soon, the first of several live acts was playing, and the party portion of the evening commenced. Things were moving on to the “afters” by the time the cops came.
Ki could tell right away that this was not a routine call. “I knew they wanted to come make some arrests and a bust of things,” he said.
It didn’t take long for the cops to do just that. Perhaps feeling the Smiths had been given enough warnings, local law enforcement charged the brothers for possession of all the drugs in the venue at the time — though they said most of it was not theirs.
“They charged us for all the pot and prescription pills the DJs had left in backpacks behind the bar,” said Ki, “It was Adderall and silly stuff like that. Nothing serious” — he paused — “and we weren’t selling it.”
The Smiths were soon booked and spent the night in jail. They were both put on probation — Ki for a year and Sei for six months. And surprisingly enough, they both have pretty good attitudes about the whole thing. “It’s just a year of staying out of trouble,” sighed Ki.
The idea had always been that “it’s what’s inside that is more important than the physical space,” as Sei once said. If all they lost was the walls, the Smiths will survive. Although, they’re not as easygoing about the fact that they can’t get their stuff back.
“We came back from spending the night in jail, and the vacate notices were up,” Ki explained.” It threatens imprisonment in exchange for entry … but all our stuff is inside.”
The building, which the Smiths simply rent from, is apparently rather far from being up to code. Department of Buildings records indicate that the vacate order was issued because the first floor, which was meant to be a store, had been illegally converted into a residence, and the cellar was occupied despite an earlier vacate order. A hearing about the alleged violations is schedule for next month.
As for their next move, the Smiths are most focused on opening another gallery, perhaps with an attached store. For now, the parties will stay underground, and will definitely not be conducted at their new spot … “until we get a liquor license,” Ki says.
In order to raise money to deal with what has been dubbed “Hurricane Cops,” the Smiths are arranging for a relief effort in the form of a Kickstarter. As the brothers know, their influence has always spanned beyond a street address. 440 Irving Avenue will likely remain vacant, but Ki and Sei aim to find a new home for their concepts to flourish. “I’m not sure if we’ll get our stuff back,” Ki said, speaking – as he is wont to do – on behalf of both himself and his brother, “No matter what happens, we’ll keep moving forward.”
You can keep up with the Smith’s continued party efforts through their website.