The Red Pavilion charms Bushwick arts scene while creating a space for AAPI artists

A performer at The Red Pavilion in Bushwick.
A performer at The Red Pavilion in Bushwick.
Photo by Chris Setter Photography

Brooklyn’s The Red Pavilion is putting a unique spin on Bushwick’s arts scene.

Located at 1241 Flushing Ave., The Red Pavilion is an Asian Neo-Noir Cabaret and Nightclub that has made itself a pillar in the community over the past year. The concept was created by Shien Lee, who wanted to create a space for healing for the AAPI community after the COVID-19 pandemic.

“Everyone was really isolated and there was a surge of anti-Asian hate crimes at the time. As the vaccines were coming out, I thought, we need a place where people can come together and heal,” said Lee. “I wanted to be able to promote and showcase my culture and elevate artists that have a voice to share their experiences. I’m really proud to say that it is a safe haven, a beacon for AAPI resilience. And being a queer Asian myself, it’s kind of been home to a very queer creative nontraditional kind of new generation of Asian people.”

For Lee, in hindsight, Bushwick was the perfect spot to get the ball rolling on The Red Pavilion. Once known for its thriving arts scene, Lee says the neighborhood is starting to head in that direction once more.

Shien Lee, owner of The Red Pavilion.
Shien Lee, owner of The Red Pavilion.Photo courtesy of The Red Pavilion

“Bushwick used to be a big town for theater and that really changed, but I really love that there’s a big renaissance going on now. There are a lot of nightclubs and theatrical venues all around my block,” said Lee. “I feel like the word is already getting around that Bushwick is a really great entertainment area, but I really hope that more and more people will come out to Bushwick.”

From drag artists to pole dancers and aerial artists, The Red Pavilion is truly a stage for the spectacular and the avant-garde, all while lifting up Asian artists. The programming in one night can range from an Anime jazz performance in the early evening to Wicked City Burlesque.

Lee says that the burlesque shows quickly became popular with The Red Pavilion’s patrons, though the jazz nights got their own following.

“There’s a spectrum. On Friday nights, for example, you can come in early for the first show, which is jazz you can bring your parents, your mom, and your grandma to. Then after that, sometimes there’s a a cabaret show that’s more burlesque, or there’s a dance party with DJs,” said Lee. “I would say it’s our cabaret show Lost Caution [that’s popular], although jazz, it’s a whole other crowd and it’s also very popular. We also do Studio Ghibli nights where a band plays music from the Studio Ghibli movies.”

A performer at The Red Pavilion in Bushwick.Photo by Ze Castle Photography

While enjoying the shows, guests at The Red Pavilion can indulge themselves in the bar’s rotating cocktail menu. Each cocktail gets an Asian twist, such as the Sesame Colada

made with rum, Baijiu, caramelized pineapple, purple mangosteen, and white sesame paste; the Red Dragon, a fiery fusion of tequila, blood orange, beet, lemon, agave, and

Sichuan chili powder, rimmed with poppy seeds; and the Phoenix, blending Mezcal, Campari, ginger, grapefruit, lemon, and agave.

There is also a selection of mocktails and CBD cocktails, as well as bar snacks from local vendors to enjoy.

The Red Pavilion bar.Photo by Chris Setter Photography

“Our bar manager, Orson, is steeped in knowledge about Asian liquors and wines. He also incorporates a lot of different ingredients into the cocktails to make it to have like a unique twist on classics,” said Lee. “Personally, I’m actually allergic to alcohol, so there’s a decent selection of non-alcoholic drinks that I like.”

Back in April, The Red Pavilion celebrated one year in business with a larger-than-life party, complete with live jazz, dancers and aerial artists. Lee hopes that in the years to come, The Red Pavilion can expand and reach more people.

“I would like to continue to attract artists, not just Asian American or Asian artists, but I would just like [The Red Pavilion] to be a platform for artists to tell their stories,” said Lee. “We also want to be curating more programming and being able to reach a wider audience so more people can experience our culture.”

The Red Pavilion is open Wednesdays through Saturdays. For more information, visit theredpavilion.com.

The Red PavilionImage Courtesy @dottaviophoto
The Red Pavilion 1st Anniversary PartyPhoto courtesy of The Red Pavilion
Photo courtesy of The Red Pavilion