317 East Houston St
New York, 10002
Hours: 1p-4a Daily
Subway: F to 2nd Ave
Written by: Sari Henry
Inviting, welcoming, inclusive. Parkside Lounge prides itself on being a place where all different types of people can have a good time. The venue offers performances for every type of taste: music ranging from bluegrass to local indie rock and an open-mic night, and comedy and cabaret shows. The club’s come-as-you-are atmosphere is the result of a seemingly unlikely partnership between Karen Waltermire, known locally for years as the “Blonde Bombshell of Bleecker Street,” and former Parkside bartender, Christopher Lee.
The spirit of Parkside is embodied in its eclectic mix of patrons: locals, tourists, music-lovers, drag queens, stockbrokers and frat boys, who all enjoy Parkside’s distinctive offerings of performances and drink specials—Sunday’s all-day Liquid Brunch, Manhattan Mondays and Tuesday Brewsdays. Some fun side distractions include the foosball game, Pac-Man, board games and a photo booth.
Performances go up in the tiny back room of the bar, which are as distinctive as the crowd itself. The space is attractive to musicians and fans because it places the monetary responsibility of the show in the hands of the performers: the performers set admission prices and keep the profits from the show. According to guitarist James MacCarthy from Band of Outsiders, he and other musicians enjoy playing Parkside because the amps are good, the back room is cozy and the management is accommodating. What the club may lack in sound quality, it more than makes up for in ambience. Indeed, the bar is often quite crowded, the shoulder-to-shoulder crowd attesting to the popularity of the venue.
Parkside started life in 1908 as an ice house on Allen Street several blocks west. Soon after it became a bar taking its name from the small park near the median on Houston. In 1996, the venue moved to its current location on Houston Street when Karen purchased it from the Gellerman Family. Christopher became a partner in 2009 and his influence is apparent in the venue’s southwest accents. In particular, Christopher believes that the city is in need of better Bloody Marys and that they are far superior in New Orleans and his native Texas. To give the drinks more bite and flavor, Lee concocts Cajun Bloody Marys that feature pickled green beans instead of celery.