Whatever Happened to the Jane Hotel?

Me New York City Building Department, you Jane. The paring down of the Jane Ballroom pleasure dome to a quaint little West Side bar is the result of a Tarzan-like approach to building permitting and such. The much-talked-about task force raid which led to this shrinkage is a situation far more complicated, problematical, and annoying than most believe. Matt Kliegman, along with Carlos Quirarte, has orchestrated the old hotel ballroom into one of the most enlightening places around. Jane hotel owner Sean MacPherson created a beautiful and romantic room that was the only game in town for so many. The Boom Boom Room, Avenue, and the Jane were a new crop of spaces leading clubdom to nirvana. Now the Jane is suddenly reduced, and its future will be defined by filings of architectural documents and the city bureaucracy.

I spoke to Matt Kliegman, who I consider a friend. I told him there are so many rumors reaching my rather large ears that the truth seemed hard to define. Matt said:

First of all we are 100% not and have never been closed. We were visited by several city agencies but not, as reported, by the Department of Health. Although we did receive multiple violations pertaining to occupancy and egress issues, we did not receive any DOH violations. We are working on remedying these occupancy/egress issues. We continue to address the concerns of our neighbors. We have taken many steps to relieve their concerns. We are not closed . We are very open.

With the Beatrice still closed, the Jane provided a home for a post-hipster set that now must find a new place to display their fall wardrobe. That is of course if they don’t embrace the wonderful front bar of Jane and its stuffed monkeys. I’m a big fan of all involved, but a look at the realities paint a solvable yet serious set of dilemmas. The road to heaven is paved with C of O’s, PA’s, sign-offs, and inspections that Jane needs to get straightened out.

A casual look at the situation reveals the architect of record applied for their public assembly permit based on what appears to be, according to my experts, “a misleading certificate of occupancy.” This C of O calls for an occupancy of 270 people for a theater. It seems their self-certified application for the public assembly indicated they had a C of O for an eating and drinking establishment. These permits are not just formalities but are put in place to make sure the public that assembles in a space are safe and protected in case of an emergency. Emergencies do happen, and when rules are not adhered to, people sometimes die.

I am not being overly dramatic. I was in the crowd at the great Gildersleeves fire on the Bowery back in the day, and the memory of patrons running around with their hair and clothing on fire and the speed in which this fire spread through the club has affected me greatly. As a club designer I am mostly commended for the flow or traffic patterns in my clubs. In Scot Solish’s article in his new Eater home he criticized, I believe incorrectly, the layout of the Boom Boom Room in regards to flow, while commending the Steve Lewis-designed Marquee. The club fire I lived through makes me very aware of safety and egress when I create a plan. Occupancy is not just the size of a room. Many large rooms have small occupancy because of many factors — where doors are located, the width of these doors, the condition of hallways leading to these doors, the distance between means of egress, exit stairs conditions, the standing plan or sitting plan. These are just some of the factors mathematically factored in to protect the crowds.

The Jane is filed as a theater, which is defined by the department of buildings as a place where scenery and scenic elements are used — a space where, during the major period of occupancy, the persons assembled compromise a seated or otherwise passive audience for a performance or presentation and have their attention focused in a common direction. That’s not what was going on at Jane, and now they have been found out and need to make some changes to their permitting and to the space itself. Complaints from the local yokels and community groups have unleashed city regulatory agencies, and the plans and filings will be scrutinized. The neighborhood didn’t sign on for the cab-honking and other disturbances a successful joint creates.

The Jane’s management has taken enormous steps to ease the pain, but the neighbors are organized, and the dotting of i’s and the crossing of t’s will now become major issues. Since 11/30 0f 2007, a bunch of permits pertaining to window repairs, ceiling repairs, plumbing, a re-support of that fabulous mezzanine and its reconfiguration, sprinkler systems, and air conditioning and such have been applied for. A quick check shows that sign-offs and approvals from the powers that be are sometimes lacking. I asked my pro: what does it all mean? How long will it take to straighten out? He just huffed non-optimistically. Sean MacPherson is a pro, and these kinds of “clerical” errors happen. I’m sure he will get it all straightened out faster than you can say “save the Jane.” I need a t-shirt.

My friend is looking for a few good men who live to dress up as women, or do drag, which can sometimes be different. I spent hundreds of hours with Kenny Kenny of Vandam fame at ancient doors talking about the myriad reasons that motivate some “gay” and “straight” men to dress up. Well, a wonderful charity needs a few performers for an event, and I put it out to you, my eclectic audience, to save the day. She says/he says:

well we are looking for any drag performers who would be willing to perform a number at the drag bingo fundraiser on oct.19th and being that you are the man around town I thought to ask if you would happen to know any drag performers willing to do a little number pro-bono at our next “drag bingo night” fundraiser this october 19th at superdive 200 avenue a? The fundraiser directly benefits trinity church’s program called safh,”services and food for the homeless” this is a full-service program located at 9th and b offering hot meals and take-away pantry bags five days a week, plus legal counseling and post office boxes for homeless and transient people of the village, les and chinatown. Http://trinitylowereastside.org/.trinity is a richly diverse congregation located in a richly diverse neighborhood. We are strongly ecumenical, strongly inclusive of glbt people, and strongly concerned about ministry to the poor and hungry.” they are also looking for a corporate sponsor for the event. $500 will do.

The “Inga Goes to Sweden” party returns to White Slab Palace this Friday after an after-Fashion Week hiatus. DJs Magnus Berger of The Last Magazine and Zara Zacchrisson (Lykke Li’s sister) will surely bring the best of the hipsters — those that change their shirts once in awhile. This week, it’s “Inga Goes to the Black Forest,” and I have RSVPed. My boy Travis always throws a great party, and White Slab feels like home. Then I’ll head to Jane to support. It is “very open” and I am very open to enjoying it as it comes.

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