[Dixielandjazz] The Cake Shop

Stephen G Barbone barbonestreet at earthlink.net
Thu May 31 06:59:37 PDT 2012

Don't we wish there were OKOM loving night club owners like Nick &  
Andy Bodor?

Steve Barbone

Crumbs From the Crowd to Pay the Bills

NY TIMES - May 30, 2012 - By James McKinley Jr.

Cake Shop, a Lower East Side club that served as an incubator for  
celebrated indie bands like Vampire Weekend and the Dirty Projectors,  
is facing a financial crisis and has started a novel Internet fund- 
raising campaign to keep its doors from closing.

Though it has been in operation only since 2005, Cake Shop, at 152  
Ludlow Street, has earned a reputation for helping local bands  
develop, and though it is a small, unpretentious club, it has become  
an important tour stop on the national circuit for alternative groups.  
It is also one of the last clubs of its kind in Lower Manhattan, as  
rising rents have pushed the scruffy bars that nurtured underground  
rock across the East River into Brooklyn.

“It really catered to independent underground pop music, stuff that  
wasn’t too concerned with how many tickets it was going to sell,” said  
Kip Berman, the guitarist and lead vocalist for the Pains of Being  
Pure at Heart, one of the success stories to emerge from the club.  
“That scene moved to Brooklyn, and Cake Shop is the last vestige left  
in Manhattan.”

But in recent months the founders of the club — the brothers Nick and  
Andy Bodor — have run into financial difficulties and face eviction,  
they said. They are under a court order to pay the landlord $58,000 by  
July 26, to cover the club’s share of taxes under the lease for two  
calendar years. They are also facing a $20,000 fine from the New York  
State Liquor Authority for noise violations and for several incidents  
in which under-age patrons were sold drinks last year.

Nick Bodor said the tax bill, which kicked in after a five-year  
abatement, was much higher than the owners had calculated. He said the  
liquor authority violations came after a crackdown by the police and a  
change in rules governing what identifications could be accepted. The  
club has since hired full-time bouncers, another expense.

“We just never had huge profits or deep pockets or a lot of money in  
the bank as a cushion,” Nick. Bodor said. “A hit like this — we don’t  
have any kind of reserve fund we can magically tap into.”

To raise the money the Bodors and the third partner, Greg Curley, have  
turned to an Internet crowdfunding Web site called Pledge Music.  
Normally the site is used by musicians to raise money for recording an  
album. People can buy copies of the album in advance or pay for  
premiums offered by the artist, like an autographed guitar, a song  
about the donor or a performance in the donor’s home. A portion of the  
money for each project goes to charity.

The owners of Cake Shop are giving away a range of creative rewards  
for donations. For $12 a donor can get a compilation album featuring  
bands that have played at the club. A $75 donation buys entrance to  
any show and eight drinks. A $200 donation puts a person on the guest  
list for six months of shows. For $20,000 a donor gets “free drinks  
for life.”

Benji Rogers, a former frontman in the band Marwood who founded Pledge  
Music three years ago, said Cake Shop is the first music space to try  
raising cash through the site. He approached the Bodors after hearing  
that the club was in trouble and offered to help. In a sense, he said,  
he was repaying a debt. He recalled that several years ago, when he  
was still a working musician, the Bodors had helped him to sell his  
record collection to raise money for a tour.

“They have got an incredible amount of love from the music community,”  
Mr. Rogers said. “Every band in New York has gone through there. It’s  
like a rite of passage.”

Nick Bodor said he hopes to raise enough money not just to pay off the  
taxes and fines but to expand the business. The club needs at least  
$50,000 over the next two months to stay in business, but the owners  
hope to collect three to four times that amount and to plow the extra  
funds into expansion. So far they have collected about 18 percent of  
the $50,000 goal.

Mr. Bodor envisions starting a record label with the Cake Shop logo.  
He would like to turn the club’s Web site into a moneymaking operation  
with original content: articles, videos of performances, releases of  
new music. He acknowledged that to stay open beyond this year the club  
will have to increase its revenue to cover about $25,000 a year in  
property taxes going forward. “We want to look at this as an  
opportunity to recalibrate our business,” he said.

For some indie musicians the prospect that the club might close  
signals the end of a certain kind of underground music in Manhattan.  
David Longstreth, the frontman for Dirty Projectors, said Cake Shop  
gave a vital forum to his band and other groups who made “music that  
was maybe a little bit improbable.” He added, “It’s just a great place  
to try something out.”

If Cake Shop closes, it would also mean the loss of a performance  
space for new and developing groups. Andy Bodor, who handles booking,  
arranges gigs at the club for more than 25 bands every week, regularly  
showcasing three or four a night. The basement performance space,  
which holds only 120 people, is a long sloping room — a windowless,  
tunnel-like structure — with red walls that ends in a scarred, six- 
inch-high plywood stage. The wall behind the musicians is covered with  
cheap tinsel, and Christmas lights have been woven into a mass above  
the stage.

Tuesday was a typical night. The early evening was devoted to  
undiscovered stand-up comics with bizarre material. Then Good Sports,  
a local female trio, played their first gig in the early slot,  
nervously delivering a series of short three-chord songs with a  
punkish edge to a small crowd. Next came Ghost Heart, a quartet from  
Grand Rapids, Mich., whose drum kit included a bicycle wheel and  
timpani. It was the group’s first gig in Manhattan, and it performed  
long, howling songs with falsetto vocals that floated above tribal  
drums and swirling guitar arpeggios. Their set, haunting and resonant,  
was decidedly noncommercial.

Nick Bodor, who has a tattoo on his left arm depicting man’s descent  
from the apes, was behind the bar, pouring drinks and listening  
intently. “We take a few more chances,” he said. “We are not going to  
book something unless we believe it’s at least interesting.”

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