147 Bleecker St
New York, 10012
Hours: Mon-Thu, Sun 7:30p-2a, Fri-Sat 7:30p-4a
Subway: A,C,D,E,F to West 4th St | 6 to Bleecker St
Written by: Rachel Antonio
New York City’s oldest rock venue, The Bitter End, still draws crowds no matter how trendy other music venues get. This Bleecker St. landmark is almost as much a legend as some of the stars whose careers were launched here—a seemingly endless roster of music giants, such as: Arlo Guthrie, Carly Simon, Bo Diddley, Peter, Paul and Mary, Billy Joel, Linda Ronstadt and Stefani Germanotta (Lady Gaga).
The Bitter End hasn’t changed its look since 1961. Its practical clapboard frame exterior and blue awning have marked the club’s location for 50 years. Inside, the worn wood paneling, exposed brick and Tiffany-style lampshades give the space a rustic, dated feel. Faded and peeling posters decoupaged onto the walls further emphasize the venue’s age. Billboard magazine articles, autographed photos, records and ticket stubs adorn the walls as badges of honor, heralding the dues paid here.
Free of obstructed views, the stage is set up for musicians to command the focal point in this venue. Colored stage lights brighten up the space, which is home to a baby grand piano. Tables are available close to the stage, or many people prefer to stand and dance in the back near the bar. The Bitter End was founded on rock music, although it is common to hear other genres such as pop, country, folk and soul.
Table seating requires a two-drink minimum per show and bar seating one drink. The bartenders, manager and bouncer all help make The Bitter End a relaxed and casual environment. Co-owner and manager Paul Rizzo says: “I just want everyone to have a good time on all levels.”
On Sunday evenings, The Bitter End hosts a singer-songwriter night, giving amateurs a chance to strut their stuff. Musician Emma Lov says: “It feels really good to be in front of an audience. The Bitter End treats you like a professional.”