Last week, as part of our A Lot About a Plot series, we looked back on the history of some bygone jazz joints, including the Village Gate and Nick’s Tavern. Now you can add another Village venue to the list: Garage Restaurant & Cafe closed its doors on Sunday. So much for its claim of hosting “more live jazz than anywhere in the world.”
This week and next, we present a series of longer pieces unraveling the histories of storied buildings.
At the end of the 19th century, Ernest Flagg had a vision. Educated in the École des Beaux-Art in Paris, the young architect came back to New York in 1890 wanting to “reform the barbaric housing standards of the day.” Then he met banker and philanthropist Darius Odgen Mills, and before long Mills House No. 1, an inexpensive hotel for working men, opened in Greenwich Village in 1897.
Slugs’ Saloon opened its doors in 1964, a neighborhood bar owned by Robert Schoenholt, who died in 2012, and Jerry Schultz. By early 1965, many musicians who lived in the neighborhood convinced the owners to feature live jazz. The club rivaled the Five Spot Café as one of the top jazz spots in the East Village.
Despite its implication, Slugs’ took its name from the book All and Everything by mystic George Gurdjieff, who referred to three-brained humans as “slugs.” New York law in the ‘60s prohibited the name “saloon,” so the club re-branded itself – keeping the apostrophe – as “Slugs’ in the Far East.”
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