Dinner at Duane Park was never just about the food. On any given night there could be flames bursting on stage, scantily-clad dancers prancing around and contortionists literally bending over backwards for your entertainment.
All of that came to a full stop when the city shut down indoor dining back in mid March (on top of banning live concerts and performances, which are still off limits). But a few weeks ago, this popular supper club on the Bowery known for its burlesque shows found a way to come back: bring the entertainment outside and schedule them at random times.
Duane Park now has 20 seats on its sidewalks as part of Paradise Alley, which takes place Thursdays-Saturdays with a three-course prix-fixe menu ($70 on Thursdays and $80 the other two nights). The reservations-only experience lasts 90 minutes with seatings at 6 and 8:30pm. and any performances are “incidental” to keep things legal (ticketed events are currently prohibited).
“A little number here, a little number there. It comes and goes,” says David Conrad, Duane Park’s manager. “It won’t cover all our rent, but it’s about getting people back to work in the safest way possible. This felt like the best marriage in how we do it.”
The supper club, which has been open for 12 years, has never offered outdoor seating, but today, as guests dig into their shrimp and grits or duck empanadas, they could be joined by jugglers, fire dancers and even an aerialist floating above their tables.
Inside, the dining room has been converted to a large changing room for the artists to allow for proper social distancing (there’s a screen playing old movies covering the area for when guests use the restrooms indoors). Before the supper club even considers reopening indoors, says Conrad, they’re waiting for the city to allow capacity to increase from 25% to 50% seating.
One reason Duane Park decided to reopen in mid October was to help art-of-work artists, according to Conrad. Many of the performers that have worked with the supper club in the past are independent contractors and some have had trouble receiving unemployment benefits during the current crisis. For most, all their gigs were cancelled.
“Adaptability has been key for us, so has helping out artists,” says Conrad. “We’ve never been a restaurant only. They’re a big part of who we are.”
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