After five years in the dark, Market Hotel is finally back in action, feeding much-needed fresh life into Brooklyn’s creative music scene. The former DIY venue gave us a little preview of its updates in December with the Sleater-Kinney show, but it officially reopened Friday, Jan. 22, as a legal, code-abiding operative space.
But fear not! Despite the new, clean bathrooms, updated electrical systems and installed fire alarms, Market Hotel still emits its old DIY charm. The bouncer standing outside is the only indication of its whereabouts. A narrow staircase leads to a graffiti-covered entryway with a message on the wall encouraging guests to “do graffiti in the bathroom.” The main room is essentially the same with some improvements, like hardwood floors, a bright window behind the updated stage that overlooks the JMZ line and a large L-shaped bar in the back corner. A scribbled piece of white oak tag displays the night’s drink specials, including $4 cheap beer, $7 Founder’s and $15 bottle of bubbly, for those who are feeling classy.
“I think we’ve been as faithful as possible, while still keeping it all legal,” said Market Hotel owner Todd Patrick. “We tried to keep the aesthetic, but also make it clean. The space used to feel like a box, but now it feels like a safe place to be.”
After years of throwing illicit parties, Market Hotel shut down in 2011 for violating safety codes and serving alcohol without a license. Shortly after, they announced plans to reopen the space as a legal non-profit. After five long, grueling years of planning, vetting contractors, ensuring coding compliance and gathering the funds, they finally reached their goal with the help of donations and some investors. Even still, Market Hotel ran a tight budget, spending probably one tenth of what other commercial spaces typically spend, according to Patrick.
“The advantage to that [a tight budget] is it’s more inspiring,” he said. “It’s something people can see within their reach. Middle class people banding together with savings that they all pooled together is a budget within reason. On the other hand, if you do spend that much, you’re compromising. There’s real power in how much money one chooses to spend.”
The long list of renovations included replacing the building’s water, gutting and replacing an entire staircase and creating separate men’s and women’s bathrooms with new toilets and a whopping five stalls (victory for women!). They even have an elevator in progress.
But the safety precautions and renovations aren’t the only changes Patrick and his crew have made. While the venue was formerly known for hosting mostly rock-heavy artists, Friday night’s reopening party featured an electronic-packed lineup including Via App, Kill Alters, Dreamcrusher and Malory. For Patrick, the different lineup marks the new direction Market Hotel is taking the artistic community.
“This show was more on our own terms,” he said. “We got bands who’ve never played together, who come from different sides of the scene and who all share a commonality. We had a lot of acts that were women as well as queer. We’re going beyond just indie rock, which is really important for us.”
By 10 p.m., the venue was comfortably packed with fans old and new—creatives of all ages looking to support and explore different artists and genres in the underground music scene.
“You come to places like this to hear new things,” said Hector Montez who used to frequent the space back in its DIY days. “It’s never a bad thing to have more places like this open in Brooklyn. Not everybody can afford to play at Music Hall of Williamsburg.”
That was the point ever since Market Hotel first started in 2008. At the time, Patrick was a well-known promoter in the area, always scouting for new spaces to throw impromptu shows. He came across the building that would soon become Market Hotel. The space originated as a Dominican nightclub with potentially questionable business practices. Perhaps the building’s ironclad walls were an indication that there was something to hide going on inside. The fire department shut down the club in 1984. By 2008, it was just a dark, scary-looking, boarded-up building—the perfect space for a DIY venue.
While Patrick was occupied by his work with Silent Barn, another DIY venue in the area, his friend pursued the space looking to house his band. When the ball began rolling, his friend asked Patrick to join him in creating something even bigger than Silent Barn. With Patrick’s already well-known reputation as a promoter in the scene, that was easy to accomplish. Market Hotel became a hot spot for DIY shows and practice space. But eventually their reputation came back to hurt them. They were too big and too obvious to continue as an illicit venue, but with the demand for more creative spaces in Brooklyn, walking away was never in their plan.
“We don’t think the current facility marketplace of creative ideas is serving the best of what New York has to offer the creative community,” said Patrick.
That’s where Market Hotel comes in today. Not only are they providing a space for aspiring artists to perform and for fans to explore new genres, but they’re working to combat gentrification and give back to the neighborhood that hosts them. While most music venues go dark once the sun rises, Market Hotel will be opening its doors. The crew has teamed up with community partners to run a non-profit educational cultural facility during the daytime—something Bushwick desperately lacks.
“Venues are engines of gentrification. It’s very complicated,” said Patrick. “It’s important to be aware of the place you’re coming into, especially with the border and magnitude of Market Hotel. We want to make sure that transformation is positive.”
With all that’s happening in music today, from the traditional indie cycle to dance to world music, the Market Hotel crew aims to expand its reach beyond the college crowd. They’ve partnered with NYC Councilmember Antonio Reynoso, the Coalition for Hispanic Family Services, the Arts and Literacy Afterschool Program and AHRC to encourage diversity and expose community members, including children and the disabled, to music and cultural education. Programming could begin as soon as this week.
Between their daytime programs and their calendar of upcoming shows, Market Hotel is certainly keeping busy. Their second-night reopening party on Jan. 23 was a nice contrast to the Friday night’s electronic theme, featuring Guerilla Toss, PC Worship and Pill. But Winter Storm Jonas forced them to cancel. Whether they decide to reschedule that particular show or not, there’s plenty more where that came from. Head over Myrtle-Broadway this Saturday, Jan. 30 for Silent Servant, Bill Converse, Jahilyya Fields and Forma, or check out the rest of their upcoming shows here.