‘I feel really lucky to have this’: Abby Ehmann’s wild ride from x-rated publishing to running East Village bars

Abby Ehmann, proprietor of Lucky
Abby Ehmann, sole proprietor of Lucky on Avenue B in the East Village
Photo by Bob Krasner

Abby Ehmann, proprietor of the bar Lucky and the “sober bar” Hekate which sits across the street on Avenue B in the East Village, recalls how the former got its name.

“I was lying awake in bed one night and I thought, I feel really lucky to have this,” she explains. “I thought there would be a million places with that name but I Googled it and there was no bar in America called Lucky.”

There is now, and it’s not just another rowdy hangout.

“I’m very particular about the music here. There’s no TV, no Red Bull, no Jack Daniels, no Bud Light,” she declares. “That probably turns away 85% of my possible business, but the people who love it really love it.”

Although she was experienced with throwing parties, bartending and producing events, she had never managed a bar when she opened the place in the summer of 2016.

“I had no idea what I was doing!” she admits. “I was flying by the seat of my pants when it started and I still am.”

All dressed up and looking for somewhere to go other than the basement……. Abby modelling a fancy number acquired by a friend from a Drag Queen at a Lucky clothing salePhoto by Bob Krasner
Abby Ehmann pokes her head out of her storage closet, where the garb of many past parties reside. Her chapeau is by Rod Keenan, whose work has sat on the heads of Elton John, Prince and Snoop Dogg, among othersPhoto by Bob Krasner

Ehmann has a history of jumping in with both feet. After “a lot of weird jobs” such as graphic artist for web projects (“no one wanted the internet in 1985”), photographer’s rep, secretary and ad agency proofreader and then copywriter, she became a bartender for the first time at The Village Idiot with no previous experience.

“I lasted a month,” Ehmann recalls.

She picked up a job answering the phone at NY Press and ended up writing for them, the first time her words went into print.

“My first piece was me complaining about things like shopping for shoes,” Ehmann recalls. “It was me bitching and moaning — one of my fortes. It was so cool being published — I got fan mail!”

A want ad in The New York Times led to her next gig as an editor at Penthouse magazine — despite a total lack of experience dealing with adult entertainment — where she edited the famous letters, sometimes rewrote them and occasionally created her own. The fictitious Super Bowl orgy missive may have been her best work, she tells us.

Her boss was a former dominatrix who was, not surprisingly, quite strict. There were certain rules about which words should be used and unfortunately none of them can be printed here.

Her side hustle was a fanzine she produced with her ex-husband called “Porn Free,” which featured side-by-side male and female centerfolds. Each new issue was celebrated at a party with a different theme, which again, we will refrain from listing.

Ehmann’s talent for creating a scene was then utilized by Chi Chi Valenti and Johnny Dynell, who spotted her at a legendary Jackie 60 night and brought her in as a producer at Mother, their next venture in the West Village. After watching Ehmann clear the stage of the detritus of a previous act consisting of broken eggs and urine (don’t ask) so that Ducky Doolittle could safely perform in some perilous footwear, Valenti said, “that’s someone we want as a partner.”

Devils, Skulls and Lady Head Vases: a small portion of Abby’s collections at homePhoto by Bob Krasner
Scribble, Ehmann’s constant companion, is a Teacup Toy PoodlePhoto by Bob Krasner
Just in case you’re not sure, she’s spelled it out for youPhoto by Bob Krasner

Given the title of “Kink Control” she collaborated with Kitty Boots, Rob Roth, Valenti and Dynell to produce the “Click + Drag” nights, a very popular cyber-fetish party.

Countless parties followed in different venues, with Ehmann producing fetish-themed events and finding appropriate outfits for each. “I had to look different once a week for seven years, “ she explains. “That’s why my storage room is full of costumes. I wasn’t that kinky, I just really like the clothes.”

Although Ehmann may miss those days and find herself reminiscing about the original Santacon (much different than it is now), setting up and tearing down Burning Man and attending the AVN shows every year, she’s quite happy with the community that she’s found on Avenue B.

“The location was a bit off of my beaten path, but it’s turned out to be perfect,” Ehmann notes. “Avenue B has its own thing going on.”

In addition to Lucky, Ehmann has opened up Hekate across the street, giving people the option of a non-alcoholic experience that includes coffee, tea and mocktails. Between the two venues there’s been live music, clothing swaps, art openings, poetry readings, pumpkin carving, workshops, tarot readers, book launches and makeovers.

Abby Ehmann in her magical world at Hekate, a sober bar and coffee/tea housePhoto by Bob Krasner
On the ceiling at LuckyPhoto by Bob Krasner
A customer relaxing at HekatePhoto by Bob Krasner
Books, artwork and jewelry from local artists are available for sale at HekatePhoto by Bob Krasner
At the request of the HONK NYC festival , Abby conjured up some witches and warlocks back in October.
Back row, L-R: Maegan Hayward, Marianne Jasmine, Paul Nagle, Abby Ehmann, Marie Suchan, Delphine LeGoff, Heather Feather ,Amy Shapiro, Eeva Doherty
Front row, L – R: Jamie Alberti, Matthew Collura , Mari Gustafson, Miss M , Pat Brown
Photo by Bob Krasner

Ehmann, who lives a few blocks away from her businesses, makes an effort to be a positive force in the neighborhood as well as she is a board member of the East Village Independent Merchants Association and is hoping to become a member of the local community board.

Lucky regular Marie Suchan is equally a fan of the venues and the owner, whom she calls “a wildly bold and driven visionary badass.” Suchan remarks that “It isn’t every place that offers the kind of homegrown East Village flavor that is so deliciously and consistently offered at Lucky. Abby has made a dream bar for everyone who harbors the fantasy of the ultimate dive bar experience.”

For more information on the bars, visit LuckyonB.com (Instagram: @luckyonb) and HekateNYC.com (Instagram: @hekatenyc).