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Hai-Lan Chinese American Cultural Society

The owner of this amazing piece of property, Malina, has endless energy and is incredibly knowledgeable about all things related to Chinese culture and tradition. She is very involved in the arts in her native land, and travels back and forth between China and New York on somewhat of a regular basis. If fortunate enough to catch her in, striking up a conversation is well worth anyone's time. The concept behind her latest venture is great, and as soon as the red paint on the walls is dry - believed by the Chinese to keep the evil spirits away - and the menu set, the Yung family will open their doors. Once a part of the Chinese Cultural Society, the imperial loft is marked by its striking entrance, a pagoda of violet with a red iron door, followed inside by prominent murals - each sharing a piece of Chinese history. While the same family has owned the whole building for decades, the purpose of the space has changed over time. What was originally a teashop is now a community space for the arts. Upstairs, a grand room with beautifully embroidered chairs will be the site for comedy shows, live music, and birthday parties. Downstairs, where rows of tabletops display magnificent Chinese paintings, each with its own story, the owners envision an Asian restaurant. Further back, doors open to a garden. Decorative tiles cover the wall and a ring of brick outlines the entrance to a hidden Buddhist temple - simply awe-inspiring. The convertible and advantageous nature of the Imperial Loft makes it, as Malina's son-in-law, Kahli, expressed, "something you hold on to. "

Lost Gem
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Stand Up NY

The jokes began almost as soon as I walked into Stand Up NY. I pointed out how clever it was to have a phone charging station by the bar and Gabriel Waldman, the co-owner, said with a smirk, “That’s what keeps us in business. ” The bar, which feels like a neighborhood spot with velvet wallpaper decorated with comedy and tragedy masks, is only the appetizer; the room stretches back into a full performance space where stand up comedians try out their routines. Gabe first came to Stand Up NY as a seventeen-year old. He performed for the very first time in a competition that the club was hosting. He did not win, but he quipped, “My mom thought I should have won! ” Back then, the club was run by Cary Hoffman, a Frank Sinatra impersonator who opened Stand Up NY in 1986. Before Cary, the space was just a simple bar. Sometimes Gabe would visit Stand Up NY with his friend Dani Zoldan, who has been his “best friend since the tenth grade. ” Dani would also come watch Gabe perform at Touro College in Brooklyn where he eventually received a degree in psychology. “I was not great in school, ” Gabe admitted. “Comedy’s my main thing. ” Despite his difficulty with academics, he then got a masters in social work and began his career working with disabled adults for three years. He used a lot of comedy to brighten the mood. One day, Dani and Gabe learned that their old stomping ground was up for sale. They purchased and renovated it in 2009, turning the bar into a slightly more upscale lounge that would lure people off the streets. The partners got rid of a big banquette that used to occupy the space, opting for smaller stools, and secured a relationship with a local restaurant that could provide them with traditional bar food because, as Gabe pointed out, “No one ever says, ‘five Jack and Cokes and some edamame, please. ’”Despite the change in ownership, comics who got their start at Stand Up NY still drop by to say hello. Louis CK, Amy Schumer, and Chris Rock were among the names that Gabe said he has welcomed. Whenever they arrive, he is happy to halt any planned programming and invite them up on stage. Gabe also mentioned an “All Star" show, where viewers bring canned food to donate to a charity instead of paying for tickets. But the amateurs definitely get their time on the stage: Every Monday from 5-7pm and Thursday from 4-6pm, Stand Up NY hosts an open mic. Gabe jokes that all you need to perform on his stage is “$5 and a dream, ” since you only need a fiver to put your name on the list. He says the demographic of comedians ranges from those who may eventually make it professionally to those who have a career and just want five minutes on the stage for fun. I sat and watched a few acts during the open mic and was surprised by the diversity of performers. There was everything from a middle-aged woman making jokes about being called “mature” to a young black man talking about how his nephew is starting to school him on “new rap. ” It was enchanting to see the people in the audience showing respect and encouraging the people on the stage, even when they got stuck. As Gabe pointed out, the open mic is about trying material and seeing what causes laughter, not about being judged. He added, “I don’t feel like I’m some comedy guru who can critique them. ”

Lost Gem
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Gotham Comedy Club

Gotham Comedy Club was opened in May 1996 by Chris Mazzilli and Mike Reisman. Though Chris had originally planned to be an attorney, he attended the Fashion Institute of Technology and "did men's wear for thirty seconds" before trying his hand at acting school. He got bit parts in several productions, but as he grew frustrated with a lack of steady work, he fell back on his passion for stand-up. It was while performing that he became fast friends with Mike Reisman – a Wall Street banker that moonlighted as a comedian – and later partnered with him to open their own comedy club. At this point, Chris left his comedic ambitions behind and fully dedicated himself to conceiving the perfect addition to New York City's nightlife. Chris and Mike wanted to depart from the "traditional dingy, smokey club" and instead create an "upscale place I would take a date or even my parents to, " Chris told us. Chris scouted out the best local talents he could find and "put all the things I learned from my dad into that club. " This culminated in Gotham's packed opening night, featuring Dave Chapelle as the headliner. "From then on, the comedians, the audience, and the staff knew that this was something special. " Their stage soon drew some of the biggest names in the industry, from Robin Williams to Jerry Seinfeld, which helped build Gotham's allure. In 2005, Chris had the chance to snag a larger space to accommodate the crowd, and he relocated to Gotham's current home in an Art Deco building beside the Chelsea Hotel. After the move, his brother, Steve, joined as a third partner. "With another person who was cut from the same cloth as I was, we were able to really grow the business, " Chris said.

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Zinc Bar

The cocktails, beers, and wines on offer at Zinc Bar make a fine accompaniment to the entertainment, which encompasses all genres of live music and comedy sets. One can drink away the evening at the stainless-steel bar, or go behind the red velvet curtains to watch a show inside the more private nooks. Already offering a wide variety of music - including African, Brazilian, and Japanese - Zinc Bar has recently partnered with the GetClassical series to help bring live classical music back to the New York bar scene. Created by Ilona Oltuski, amateur classical pianist turned music journalist, GetClassical is an endeavor of "passion and awe for classical music and the young musicians who create it today. " Ilona is aware that concert hall audiences are declining and primarily represent an older demographic. The GetClassical performances are "edgy, young, but never compromise music quality, ” and Ilona hopes that having these intimate presentations will be a way to reintroduce classical music to a new group of people. Manhattan Sideways was invited to attend the first evening in the series featuring Adrianne Haan, a German-born vocalist. In an informal and interactive cabaret-style performance of incredibly high quality, Ilona remarked that Zinc Bar is the "perfect place" for her series: luxurious enough to transport people - in this case to Berlin of the 1930s - but low-key enough to not be intimidating. There is no doubt that GetClassical and Zinc Bar make an exciting combination for music lovers. Zinc Bar is also host to New York City Chess Inc., which hosts games, tournaments, and classes daily at Zinc Bar. This added feature makes the space a chess club during the day, and a jazz club at night. Walking in, the Manhattan Sideways team was introduced to Michael, Russ, and Jenny, who, sitting in a booth across from the bar, explained that the bar was their office, where all the organization and operation of New York City Chess takes place. “We’re kind of like Tony Soprano, you know, who does all of his business out of the bar, ” Michael joked. We were encouraged to stop by again to sit down for a quick game. It is free and in their words, “we’re always happy to have opponents. ”