The long, narrow space formerly occupied by Lower East Side bar Red Velvet has been transformed into a cozy spot to lounge on sparkly, gold vinyl couches or check out some art.
At 174 Rivington, paintings line the hall, there are squiggly doodles on the ceiling, and still more artwork is displayed under the glass of the bar. The lounge opened earlier this month with its first exhibition, showcasing the highly textural, darkly humorous work of contemporary local artist Jon Zeh.
As if all that isn’t enough visual stimulation, there are 36 games to play on the table/video game console in the back lounge area. Even the walls of the two bathrooms are covered in colorful designs, one of which is the handiwork of Joseph Peraino, who owns the bar with Luca Carucci.
Peraino isn’t a professional artist, but he likes to paint and has always wanted to incorporate his love of art into the bars he’s owned. He says this newest venture is like a continuation of his previous bars, 667 Fulton Street in Brooklyn and 46 Grand in Soho. The Fulton Street location was torn down, and Peraino was priced out of Soho, but he hopes the same vibe will live on at the LES space. He wants it to be a low-key bar with an inexpensive, no-frills drink menu (including $2 Modelos), happy hour until 9 p.m. every day and simple bar food (menu still in the works).
Peraino was already planning to have monthly rotating art exhibits when he met Lexi Chapman, who was manager for a nearby gallery. As fate would have it, she was considering changing jobs when Peraino asked her to curate the bar. Jon Zeh’s exhibition “Hell Hath No Fury” was a natural fit for the bar’s premiere show, she said — th
e surreal, highly detailed drawings and paintings, many of them drawn over maps, fit the vibe of the bar and the neighborhood.
During April, which is also Lower East Side History Month, 174 Rivington will celebrate the neighborhood’s storied history with “Punks, Losers, Screw-Ups & Goofballs,” an exhibition of the Antic Art of former Cracked art director Cliff Mott. Mott spent his formative years roaming the Lower East Side of the late ‘70s and early ‘80s, where he met musicians who needed band flyers and promotional art and eventually he came to produce images for the Fleshtones, Dictators, and the Jon Spencer Blues Explosion.
Chapman said she’s excited about getting the community involved and plans on collaborating with ABC No Rio for a future show. She’ll also ask local tattoo artists to submit drawings.
174 Rivington is open Sunday – Thursday, 2pm to 1am, and Friday – Saturday, 1pm to 2am.