‘Rejoice!!!’ Cumming says as club’s shows are O.K.’d

Some dinosaur cabaret at Club Cumming when performances were still going on. Now with the State Liquor Authority’s approval, much-anticipated live performances at the East Village club will start up again this Thursday. Photo by Hunter Canning

BY SYDNEY PEREIRA | The East Village gay bar co-owned by the Scottish actor Alan Cumming on Wednesday received approval from the State Liquor Authority to have live music and performances.

“We’re thrilled with the S.L.A.’s decision,” said Benjamin Maisani, co-owner of the bar formerly known as Eastern Bloc before its rebranding last year as Club Cumming. “We were always more than happy to comply. I don’t think that was an issue, but we also wanted to comply with rules and regulations that are the correct ones.”   

The alteration to the bar’s liquor license comes several weeks after Community Board 3 rejected the bar’s applciation outright — despite overwhelming public support from residents, clubgoers, arts-and-culture reporters and musicians. Since February, the club has been on hiatus from hosting live music performances. Maisani said, during May, the nightspot had half the profits as usual.

“It would have been nice if we could have avoided that,” he said. “We’re quite eager to get back to our usual programming. And it’s not just a money thing: A lot of our performers were not able to work and therefore were not able to be paid at that time.”

Enjoying and emoting at Club Cumming earlier this year. Photo by Jeffrey H. Campagna

With the S.L.A.’s go-ahead, on Thursday the nightspot will have its first scheduled live performance in more two months. The original C.B. 3 resolution for the club’s liquor license modification included several stipulations, including banning the club from posting a performance schedule online and charging cover fees. That stipulation, however, would have basically ruined the business model that Cumming brought to the club, at 505 E. Sixth St., when he got involved with it, and which had revived the place.

Some board members stressed that their vote against the club’s liquor license alteration was difficult. C.B. 3 District Manager Susan Stetzer said the zoning text prevented the club from being a live performance hub, leading some members to vote No at the April full board meeting. But the Department of Buildings told The Villager otherwise in early May — saying the club didn’t violate any zoning regulation.

Maisani said Stetzer admitted the error at the S.L.A. meeting last Wednesday, and the S.L.A. decision made him feel vindicated. However, Stetzer denied to The Villager she said anything of the sort.

“I did not say that,” she said. “Live performances were never an issue and I never said I made a mistake.”

Despite the C.B. 3 drama, Maisani plans to keep in communication with the board should other issues arise. Maisani added the S.L.A. itself on Wednesday said the club was an asset to the East Village.

“He felt what we were doing was a real benefit to the community and the city at large,” Maisani said.

Cumming and Daniel Nardicio, another co-owner, were also at Wednesday’s S.L.A. hearing.

“We just left the State Liquor Authority meeting and they ruled in our favor so @clubcumming is allowed once more to have live performances and DJs!!! Rejoice!!!” Cumming said in an Instagram post Wednesday afternoon. “Thanks to everyone who supported us.”

“We have only tried to comply and make good since we discovered the license error, and finally we have been allowed to go on as before,” Cumming added “Ironically our dealings with our community board — us wanting to protect and preserve the @clubcumming community — has made us all realize just how passionately people feel about our little bar and the inclusive, non-judgmental merriment we try to create.”

Darren Dryden, another co-owner, kept it simple, tweeting on Wednesday: “We won.”

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