75 Christopher St
New York, NY 10014
Hours: Mon-Thu 2p-5a, Fri-Sun 12p-5a
Subway: 1 to Christopher St
Written by: Heather McCown
Upon descending the stairs of Fat Cat on Christopher Street, one may expect the darkened atmosphere of a pool hall; instead sounds similar to Coltrane and Lonnie’s Lament are first noticeable. Inside, jazz musicians share the space with pool tables, chess boards, and ping pong tables. Jazz musicians deftly play, oblivious to the action happening around them. Their lyrical notes and deep melodies float past the exposed pipes and spot lights. Part of the crowd sits on corduroy sofas and chairs, while others engage in shooting pool, drinking beer and hanging with friends.
The din from the crowd can be heard only when the band pauses between songs. It is then that one realizes this is a pool hall. Instead of competing for attention, the two complement each other. “The venue is totally unique, because you never see any place that includes table games with live music,” says Sheldon Yellowhair, Fat Cat’s sound engineer. And, the musicians love it too. Stand-up bassist, Joseph Lepore, remarks: “It’s a great place for steady gigs—to work out the music before recording.”
Fat Cat is not ‘hip’—it doesn’t have to try that hard. Rather, it is a place to hear amazing live jazz in a dynamic atmosphere. The mix of live jazz and pool-hall action gives Fat Cat its edge and authenticity, separating it from other West Village, college hang-outs.
According to the manager, Ben, the long-term goal of Fat Cat is to become a non-profit, and give back to the community through equipment donations and musical education programs. For now, Fat Cat continues to, as doorman Charlie Brown puts it, “keep the right kind of people here and the wrong kind out” by embracing diversity and an overall pleasant atmosphere.