Priced Out: Lenox Lounge
By now, everyone knows Lenox Lounge is closing; another victim in the continued gentrification of Harlem. I’ve actually been expecting this to happen for some time. The rumors of its closing had been circulating since St. Nick’s Pub shut down last year. The owner says the landlord doubled the rent from 10k to 20k leaving him no choice but to shut down.
I could echo the sentiments of many and say “what a shame” it is and move on. I mean, after all, it’s old jazz club whose time has come and gone. But as a person born in Harlem it is more than that. It is another example of how the neighborhood I grew up in is being washed away and rebranded to suit the needs of gentrifiers also known in Harlem as “white folks”. In my opinion, the bar should have long been designated a landmark like Minton’s Playhouse, given the depth of its history in the world of music and in the city of New York. Sadly, that will not happen.
When I lived in Harlem as an adult, I did the live jazz scene heavy. On any given Friday night I’d go to Lenox Lounge, 449 LA, Shrine then up to St. Nick’s Pub to finish the night off. Unfortunately, that will never happen again and I no longer live in Harlem. Like the Lenox Lounge, I too was priced out. Nope. I cannot afford to live in a neighborhood that I once felt like I “owned”. As a child, I went to PS 200 on a 150th and 7th, played "skellies" on every block from 144th to 153rd, kissed my first girl in the courtyard of Dunbar houses, played in the “mountains” of Bradhurst Park, first heard Hip Hop at the “Roof Top” Skating Rink.
I loved that Harlem.
I don’t recognize this one and that is not by accident.
It reminds me of the neighborhood of Georgetown in Washington, DC which used to have a large African American population. Our history in the neighborhood was once rich and deep. You would never know that if you went to Georgetown today. All that remains of that history is Mount Zion Union Methodist Church. I suppose all that will be left of our history in Harlem will be the Apollo. I mean Justin Beiber has to perform somewhere, right?
So when people talk to me about how much better Harlem is today than it was, my immediate answer is always the same…better for who?
Better for who?