It was an incubator for music legends like Tina Turner, U2, Bob Dylan, The Pretenders and Prince. It was the site of political action. It may even have been a cultural haven for Langston Hughes and F. Scott Fitzgerald. And now, Webster Hall is a revamped modern and intimate concert hall with a history bigger than the building itself.
The bones of Webster Hall are essentially the same after a nearly two-year renovation and change of ownership. The capacity is still roughly 1,400 people. Longtime lovers of the venue will still see the art deco ceilings, red- and gold-scalloped balconies and exposed brick, just with some refinished flooring and touched up paint. Underage young adults will still be able to enjoy the shows, and club nights will likely return in the fall when schools are back in session, though a specific date has not yet been solidified.
John Moore, co-founder of The Bowery Presents, has booked shows at Webster for 10 years and said that the best compliment he has received from friends and co-workers is ‘congratulations on not messing it up.’
“A lot of people have great love for the room, have had great experiences here,” he said. “It was a huge deal for us not to mess that up. It has a great vibe. It has a vibe that is intimate, exciting, maybe not sure what’s around the corner — in a great way — and a lot of amazing history that we wanted to preserve.”
Most shows and club nights will be for those 19 years and older, unless specified otherwise, according to Keith Sheldon, executive vice president of programming and development for BSE Global, which acquired Webster Hall’s operating rights with The Bowery Presents in 2017.
“It’s about the continuity of programming and making sure Saturday night club nights are what they once were and what people are expecting today,” Sheldon said.
‘Heart and soul’ unchanged
What has changed is some of the experience guests will get. Instead of space for two or three different performances simultaneously, there is now a modern lounge with a bar — dubbed the Ritz Room — right past the main foyer. The room used to be the site of another stage, but the bar, additional restrooms and couches now take its place.
During reconstruction, workers also uncovered stenciling on the walls from the original design. To pay homage to the venue’s history, the new owners recreated that stenciling on top of the new walls, Sheldon said. They also removed muted glass from the entryway doors and added them to the light fixtures behind the Ritz Room bar.
“The goal was to modernize the room, not to completely restructure and reformat the room,” said Sheldon. “You’ll see we did a lot of cleanup work, but really the look and feel of the room, the heart and soul of the room, maintains the same.”
Other new aspects include a giant disco ball in the middle of the ballroom, more stairs, a third door in the entryway, and an elevator. There is also more thorough security, with metal detectors at the entryway, and for performers and their teams, larger, more modern rooms.
Chris Garofoli, who lives near the Flatiron Building — just a 15-minute walk away from Webster Hall, has frequented the venue since 2014. He returned April 27 to see Dillon Francis perform and planned to return Friday night for TroyBoi.
“Everything feels much more sterile,” he said. “A lot of people used to like the venue as a three-story club with lots of intermingling between rooms. It is now a single main room with a much more venue-like focus.”
Just across 11th Street, a new Moxy Hotel is under construction and expected to open in October. Moore said that while there are no deals in place, they’d be open to developing a partnership to allow artists to stay there.
Jay-Z kicked off the re-grand opening of the hall on April 26. Upcoming shows include Halsey on Wednesday and Thursday, X Ambassadors on June 20, Snail Mail on Aug. 1, Joye Manor and Saves the Day on Aug 16, and Julia Michaels on Oct. 30. Additional shows are listed on WebsterHall.com and tickets are available via Ticketmaster.