Angel’s Share customers lament possible move of beloved East Village speakeasy
Several Japanese bars, restaurants and stores in the East Village, including one of New York’s most popular speakeasies, are at risk of closing or being relocated due to “massive rent increases”.
According to New York Times journalist Alex Vadukul, who tweeted the news earlier this week, Angel’s Share – along with Village Yokocho, Panya Bakery and Sunrise Mart, all located on Stuyvesant Street near 3rd Avenue and operated by the same owner – faces eviction later this month when “a very old and long-term lease has finally come to an end.”
The potential loss sparked an outcry of wailing from longtime clients, including director Alice Wu, who told Gothamist that Angel’s Share was “one of the last places in town I could take so… trusted an out-of-town friend and convinced him to think I had the secret keys to a more fabulous New York.
Maya Sakai, who grew up in the East Village and Brooklyn, said she has fond memories of dropping out of Friday classes at McGill University and traveling around town to hit the bar with her boyfriend at the time.
“He knew the mixologist there and was able to make us these tea-infused bitters made from hinoki, sakura, yuzu — whatever flavors were available. Spending time there sparked those feelings…the asymptote of desire,” she said. “Like many of the city’s little hidden gems, it would be such a terrible loss and such a shame if it ceases to exist.”
According to Treasury Department records, the buildings housing the businesses are all owned by Cooper Union. The college did not respond to multiple calls and emails regarding the situation, nor did the owners of the bar.
Angel’s Share, whose name refers to the amount of alcohol that evaporates as it ages in barrels, was first opened in 1993, modestly tucked away behind an unmarked door in the corner of what is now Yokocho Village. , an izakaya restaurant accessible only up some stairs. It quickly became one of the hearts of Little Tokyo in the East Village.
The bar is known as much for its romantic atmosphere – dimly lit tables that force you to get closer to the person you’re with, booths with giant windows overlooking the street below, the giant ornate Tiepolo painting behind the bar , the debonair bartenders in vests and the constant din of shakers and glasses — as for its distinctive craft cocktails, many named after jazz standards. He is considered a pioneer for bringing the sensibility and training of a Tokyo-style cocktail bar to New York. As Punch put it, they excelled in “all formality, intimacy and meticulous service”, but were also willing to embrace new flavors and ingredients.
Angel’s Share was even busier than usual on Thursday night, with an hour-long wait outside its door and local TV news trucks camped out in the street below. A bartender there seemed somewhat optimistic, telling Gothamist of the current situation, “It’s between landlord and landlord, but we’re moving or staying here.”
Grub Street reported on Friday that if the bar moves, its iconic giant painting of baby angels will go with it.
Sasha Yosselani, a 30-year-old entertainer who lives in Bushwick, was at the bar having a drink with friends on Thursday night. It was the first time she had returned to Angel’s Share since the pandemic began. She said she was introduced to the speakeasy nearly a decade ago by a friend who worked at the Panya bakery downstairs.
“There was a lot of mystery about it, but when you step into it, it’s like stepping into a different world,” she said. “A world with a lot of care, a lot of know-how, a very organized atmosphere. They are really visionary in the way they [combine] all these flavors together…the passion for cocktails as this artistic experience and not just a way of doing [drunk]. It’s a very special place, it’s an experience. I’ve brought so many dates here, I’ve brought so many friends here.”
Over email, East Village blogger EV Grieve told Gothamist that it would be “devastating” for the neighborhood to lose these places.
“Everyone seems to have a story about their first time at Angel’s Share – nervously navigating through that unmarked wooden door to impress a date or out-of-town friend like you did a dozen times before,” they said. “This stretch of Stuyvesant Street between Ninth Street and Third Avenue has been a very prominent and beloved micro-center of Japanese culture for almost 30 years. It’s hard to imagine that going away. Given the proximity of ‘Astor Place and NYU, you can’t help but wonder what kind of national chain the landlord has plans for the retail space on.’
Scott Heins provided additional information.