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Anyway Café may be the last NYC restaurant serving music nightly

BY EVERYNIGHT CHARLEY CRESPO | This past summer, New Yorkers freely enjoyed sweet wafts of live music emanating from dozens of sidewalk cafes and parks. Scores of local musicians performed live for tips, filling the air of an otherwise drab city with blues, folk, jazz, pop, ragtime, rhythm and blues, rock and world music.

Masked and socially distant entertainment-starved music lovers were grateful for the tunes, live, loud and present.

Michael Riff sang classic rock hits at the Anyway Café on Jan. 11. (Photo by Everynight Charley Crespo)

As winter approached, however, infection spread and increased governmental restrictions radically diminished these entertainment options. Many musicians began hibernations, and many venues lost their platforms for presenting live music.

In most cases, the few remaining Downtown Manhattan restaurants that host musicians have them play indoors to diners seated outdoors. Kudos go to Marshall Stack (66 Rivington St.), Caravan of Dreams (405 E. Sixth St.) and a handful of other venues for showcasing live incidental music often, though on an irregular schedule.

Sasha Drey sang Russian and American rock songs at the Anyway Café on Jan. 10.

Rue-B (188 Avenue B) must be applauded for hosting live music on five nights, Tuesdays through Saturdays. Baby Brasa (173 Seventh Av. South) draws large crowds with its live music on six nights, Tuesdays through Sundays. The Anyway Café (34 E. Second St.), however, may be the only restaurant left in New York where live music is served every night of the week.

The Anyway Café opened in its current location in 1995 and branched into three additional satellites over time. The East Village outpost remains the franchise’s quaint little flagship, serving French and Russian cuisine along with the restaurant’s ever-popular infused vodka specialties.

Arnt Arntzen sang vintage jazz and country songs at the Anyway Café on Jan. 13.

The Anyway Café never built a formal stage but rather made an informal space by the bar for musicians to sit on bar stools. Current regulations prevent diners from sitting inside, so two loud speakers by a window project the music to the diners outside. The public responded to a crowdsourcing plea this fall and so a newly covered and enhanced curbside area is almost completed. This soon will be equipped with electric heaters and speakers.

Russian pop and jazz musicians gravitate naturally to the Anyway Café. But Natasha Stolichnaya, who books the schedule on a week-by-week basis, will book most any style of music. About once a month, she even books herself. Stolichnaya leads a gypsy music ensemble that she calls the Typsy Gypsy Girls.

“Many people say the Anyway Café is supporting the musicians, but this is not entirely correct,” Stolichnaya said. “The relationship goes both ways. We support the musicians, but they also support us. If it were not for the musicians, we would be just another restaurant.”

Musicians perform from 6:30 to 9:30 p.m. The restaurant has no cover charge. Musicians perform for tips.

One Comment

  1. Mata Hari Mata Hari January 27, 2021

    I love the Anyway Cafe. Many of my friends have performed there over years: Arturo Martinez playing Brazilian and flamenco, La Conja and Basilio Georges singing and playing flamenco and the Hermanos Cintron playing Flamenco, I love the laid-back atmosphere, reasonably priced, delicious food and of course the vodka. Be warned, it’s cash only, but it’s worth it because look how they support live music! Thank you, Natasha!

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