BY EVERYNIGHT CHARLEY CRESPO | City Winery is an ever-growing chain of venues that entrepreneur Michael Dorf started in New York in 2008. With each new construction, every City Winery improves upon its predecessor.
After a six-month delay due to COVID-related governmental restrictions, the new flagship City Winery in New York City quietly debuted on Oct. 10, on Pier 57 in Hudson River Park, off of W. 15th St.
Following more than a year of construction and a $20 million investment, the new City Winery immediately became the standard by which all future music venues will be compared. Dorf is correct when he states, “This is possibly the best intimate live music venue ever built in New York or in the country.”
At 32,000 square feet, the new City Winery is the largest wine bar in New York, and also one of the city’s largest restaurants. It is a complex of numerous wining and dining spaces, both indoor and outdoor, plus a wine cellar, winemaking facility, storage tanks and barrels. There is an expansive menu and wine list.
The new facility’s main space is roomy, has a large stage and boasts a view of the river and New Jersey skyline. The sightlines to the stage are spectacular; unlike the first City Winery, which operated in Hudson Square from 2008 to 2019, the new venue has no pillars, there is no staircase occupying space in the middle of the floor, the sound and light boards have been moved to a mezzanine, and additional seats will overlook the stage from a semicircular balcony. As expected, the sound and lighting are state of the art. Once musicians can tour once again without travel restrictions, City Winery will book the best live acts.
What about safety? Even outside the venue, a traffic officer stands by the Hudson River bikeway to ensure the guests get across it safely. Inside the building entrance, masked staff take all customers’ temperatures and screen them for COVID-exposure information.
With the large venue presently limited to 25 percent capacity, all tables are very safely distanced from each other and from the stage. Food can be ordered either by electronic menu or through the waitstaff. A slideshow on two large screens repeatedly reminds customers to wear face masks when the staff approaches and when moving to and from their table. Waiters, servers and bussers wear face masks at all times. Even the house bands perform wearing masks.
Currently, the main room seats about 100 music lovers, down from the roughly 400 that were planned before COVID.
Jill Hennessey and David Broza performed unadvertised sets on the first two opening nights. From Thursdays to Sundays, jazz or blues bands perform a three-hour set in the late afternoon or early evening, followed by 20-minute sets by local singer-songwriters. For the time being, all performances will remain unannounced and unticketed. Coming soon, a separate space called the Loft also will host smaller concerts and seat 150 people.
The originally envisioned plan for live music at the new City Winery will launch when governmental regulations are lifted regarding the advertising and ticketing of live entertainment.
The first ticketed concerts at City Winery are scheduled tentatively for the winter, with Southside Johnny & the Asbury Jukes in December and the Mountain Goats in January. The Sweet Remains are scheduled for the Loft in late January. In the meantime, however, the public can come for a meal and fine wine and enjoy incidental music by many of New York’s finest musicians.