THE RECENT CLOSURES come just as the surrounding Flatiron District seemed to be on the verge of becoming the city’s next great nightlife destination. Noting the proliferation of restaurants and nightclubs along West 19th, 20th, 21st, and 22nd streets (as well as an uptick in crime and underage drinking), a New York Post article in April dubbed the region “the new clubland,” heir apparent to embattled West Chelsea.
Yet here, smack in the middle of it all, is a hospitality-industry black hole, swallowing aspiring hot spots left and right, as increasing residential development threatens to push out the party scene far faster than in the densely liquor-licensed area due west.
“I don’t think the building’s cursed or anything,” said John Ciraulo of Massey Knakal Realty Services, who brokered the Aug. 6 sale of the former Lonesome Dove location. “There have been a few unfortunate tenants.”
Mr. Ciraulo chalked up the string of ground-level failures to the trials of the restaurant industry, in general, as well as to the location, in particular—mid-block between Fifth and Sixth avenues. Any successful enterprise amid this no-man’s land would need a great deal of buzz. “It’s got to be a destination,” he said.
Mr. Shaffer had hoped that Flatiron Joe’s could become that beacon of booze. Amid all the area’s chichi eateries and velvet-roped venues, a stripped-down, no-frills tavern seemed just the trick. “The bar would’ve been a winner,” he said.
He called it Flatiron Joe’s in honor of the common folk. “That’s Joe,” he said, pointing to a large mural depicting a muscular construction worker that adorned the bar’s eastern brick wall: “BUILDING AMERICA ONE BEER AT A TIME,” it said.
The tavern served sliders and cheap suds. It had a pool table in the back. The jukebox was stocked with songs for the masses, including a CD called “Mullets Rock!” featuring the hits of Foreigner and Cheap Trick, among other sonic relics from the hair-band era.
Guns ‘n’ Roses’ 1987 anthem “Welcome to the Jungle” blared in the background, as patrons watched Monday Night Football on several big screens on the night of Sept. 15.
“Say hello to the new guy!” Mr. Shaffer had encouraged his charges, as this reporter bellied up to the bar.
One month later, the former friendly host huffed around the premises wearing a grimace, as his whole inventory was hawked off for chump change.
“Just watching it die,” he told The Observer. “I’ve never had one die before.”
“It’s cursed now,” he said of the location.