Transformative East Village drag nightclub Pyramid Club closes for good

April 2, 2021

After 42 years, the East Village’s legendary Pyramid Club has closed permanently, as was first reported by EV Grieve. The club at 101 Avenue A is “credited with creating the East Village drag and gay scenes of the 1980s, launching a new politically-conscious form of drag performance art in the early 1980s,” according to Andrew Berman of Village Preservation, and is the place where celebrated performers such as Lady Bunny and RuPaul got their start. The Pyramid Club has remained closed since the pandemic began, as nightclubs were never permitted to reopen until now, but the burden of the past year made the owners decide to shut down for good.

The Pyramid Club opened in 1979 and became “a transformational space that challenged conventions regarding gender and sexuality, as well as the separation between performers and audience,” according to Berman. It was at the Pyramid Club that the annual Wigstock Festival got its start in 1984, that Madonna performed her first AIDS benefit, that the Red Hot Chili Peppers and Nirvana played some of their first shows, and that local artists like Andy Warhol, Debbie Harry, and Keith Haring hung out.

EV Grieve spoke to the Pyramid Club’s managers, Maria Narciso and Quirino Perez, who said they have historically had very little communication with the owners. However, they always assumed the club would reopen. “We reached out to friends in the community to provide food we could sell at the venue, even considered purchasing tables and chairs to place in six-foot squares on the dance floor, among other options, but we were never granted permission to present our plans,” they told EV Grieve.

When the state announced that indoor live performance venues could reopen at a reduced capacity on April 2, Perez texted the owners about their plans and received a response “stating that due to COVID-19, The Pyramid Club will not reopen.”

In an email to 6sqft, Andrew Berman shared his thoughts on the closing:

This is truly a sad day for New York City. The Pyramid Club… was a wonderful, tiny, atmosphere-filled, and history-drenched space that gave birth to much of the drag performance art of the last 40 years, to say nothing of endless nights of 80s nostalgia.

In my 20 years at Village Preservation, I have to say that one of my proudest moments was our successful efforts to get the space ruled eligible for the State and National Registers of Historic Places, one of the first-ever done so based upon LGBT and specifically drag history, and getting the building landmarked in 2012 based upon those same factors.

As someone who spent many a sweaty night there decades ago, and recalls fondly hour and a half long train rides home to the Bronx in the wee hours of the morning after a night at the Pyramid Club, I can say it will certainly be missed.

[Via EV Grieve]


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