Legendary LES art bar Max Fish is poised for a revival, one year after the closure of its iconic Ludlow Street location. This Saturday afternoon, the Fish will swim again at new digs on Orchard Street—no. 120 to be exact, right across from that other dynastic offshoot, the Russ and Daughters Café.
When B+B stopped by this afternoon, last minute construction was still underway. Owner Ulli Rimkus was putting together some kitchen shelves, while men worked in the front window to build a plinth in preparation for the arrival of “Bobby”: the well-loved statue that greeted guests at Max Fish’s previous incarnation.
Bobby is a heavy fibreglass sculpture that Rimkus has owned for 20 years, made using the life-cast of a woman from the Bronx. “She really liked Elvis, so she would always dress like him,” explained Rimkus. “And she swept the whole neighborhood. And she wrote crazy poetry.”
Bobby arrived while we were on the scene, and was lovingly carried into place. “She’s judging you as you walk in the door,” said Rimkus with satisfaction, while the rest of the team nodded their approval.
The rest of the décor is equally intriguing—colorful lights and lampshades, glittery vinyl seating, funky mirrors—and stays true to the Max Fish vibe. “It’s always colorful,” says Rimkus. “Always many things to look at. People can come in and say, ‘I’ve never seen that before!’ even if it’s been there all along.”
The heavy timber side tables were decorated with “nail art” designs by the owner herself. This reporter spotted a mushroom, a dollar sign, and a crocodile. “If I could only decorate, I would be happy,” Rimkus sighed.
Rimkus opened Max Fish in 1989 (having arrived in the U.S. from Germany in 1977), because she liked the social aspect of the bar business. “We’ve always been like people’s living room,” she said. “We provide a space for people to come and relax after work, before they go home and get up for work again the next day.
She hopes that this communal atmosphere will flourish in the new location, although ideally it won’t just be a replica of the old Max Fish. “We want to add something,” she says. “To repeat what it was would be weird.” Given the extra space they now have, she hopes they might host more music, once a week or so.
“I don’t know what it’s going to be,” she admits—in a neighbourhood that she acknowledges is “not what it used to be.”
“I guess we’ll see. I just hope it’ll be successful.”
Check out a slideshow of the new space below.