State Says No to The House of Yes – Maintaining Nightlife During a Pandemic

State Says No to The House of Yes –  Maintaining Nightlife During a Pandemic
Courtesy of House of Yes.

House of Yes has been a part of Brooklyn’s nightlife for over ten years. The spot, known for its vibrant queer-friendly dance parties and shows, occupies a large building in Bushwick just off of the Jefferson Street L Train. Since the pandemic hit, dance parties, drag shows, and other forms of entertainment House of Yes specialize in have been largely put on hold. Outdoor dining, while appropriate for many restaurants, poses unique challenges for spots that used to be open until 4:00 am and weren’t necessarily known for food or cocktails.

“The center of a lot of our nightlife business was 1, dancing which a lot of people can’t really do safely right now, and 2, theater shows,” Jacqui Rabkin, the Marketing Director for House of Yes, told Bklyner. “We’re trying to roll with the punches but it feels like every week there’s a new proclamation that comes out that’s really meant to just make it more difficult for small businesses that are trying to survive.”

House of Yes is in support of a lawsuit brought forth by the Independent Venue Association against the SLA regarding new regulations for ticketing music and performance events. Rabkin says that the issue is about free speech.

“We have hosts, we have servers, and in order for us to make it sound exciting for our patrons, I might describe what the servers are doing as ‘a hint of performance magic’. I would use that word because I want to get people excited to come out, but that doesn’t mean it’s a live performance. We’ll have music playing and we’ll have sound selections by some of our favorite DJs, but there’s no physical DJ booth,” she said, all of which would not be allowed under new regulations. At House of Yes’s outdoor cafe, the servers often wear drag and attempt to maintain some of the former “vibe”, but all guests are required to remain seated.

Right now, the outdoor area is not sustainable, Rabkin says.

“All venues need their rent cancelled or some aspect of rent cancellation. There’s absolutely no way that at any reduced capacity any venue can make the revenue required in that space to pay the rent, because that’s just not how the business model of social gathering venues work,” she said.

Hours after Bklyner’s conversation with House of Yes on August 27th, their liquor license was revoked by the State Liquor Authority. The venue had been serving food from a sister restaurant, which they were told didn’t comply with regulations. The SLA did not immediately return a request for comment.

House of Yes is still looking toward the future, however uncertain.

“Most of us are not trying to delude ourselves that things will ‘go back to normal’. That’s certainly not how I’m viewing things. I feel that if I would approach my life and my career in nightlife as waiting for things to go back to normal. I Would be extremely disappointed,” Rabkin said.

As the venue works with the SLA “in good faith” and hopes to reopen, patrons can support their PayPal, listen to their podcast or playlists, and grab some merchandise.

September 16th, 2020: A statement made by House of Yes regarding police presence was retracted due to concerns over future SLA negotiations.