Wetlands and wild: Famed Tribeca rock club sows the seeds of Brooklyn Bowl

Wetlands Preserve
Wetlands Preserve

Brooklyn’s a global brand now,  so perhaps it’s not surprising that nightlife jack-of-all-trades Brooklyn Bowl has gone global, too. The hip Williamsburg concert venue and bowling alley — with food from Blue Ribbon, a serious step up from typical alley fare — opened an outpost in London in January, and is scheduled to open 75,000-square-foot venue in Vegas this month.

But before there was Brooklyn Bowl, one of the club’s owners, Peter Shapiro, owned and operated a much-loved Tribeca rock club, the Wetlands Preserve. The venue, at 161 Hudson Street, would have been 25 in February , had it not closed in 2001, a casualty of Tribeca’s ascent to the pinnacle of Manhattan’s real estate scene.

In its heyday, the Wetlands was a sort of clubhouse for the nascent jam band scene in the 1990s, featuring top acts like Phish and Blues Traveler. Other bands that played the club include Pearl Jam, Oasis and the Spin Doctors; from 1999, the club was home to Black Lily, a female-centric open mic, with music from The Roots.

But Wetlands wasn’t just about the music; it also nurtured an environmental and social justice activism group. Today, the Wetlands Activism Center endures as a volunteer organization that “continues to campaign for earth, human and animal liberation,” according to its website.

The Wetlands Preserve opened in 1989 in a former warehouse; its first proprietor, Larry Bloch, had no prior experience in the music industry. Shapiro bought the venue from Bloch in 1997, when he was just 23 years old. “The irony is that Larry told the story that he picked the corner where no one would ever want to live — at the exit of the Holland Tunnel,” Shapiro told the Commercial Observer. (Bloch passed away in 2012.)

Times change, of course, and gentrification came to the nabe — slowly, with the 1980 opening of the Odeon, Keith McNally’s iconic restaurant — before rapidly accelerating in the aughts, transforming Tribeca into the well-heeled, loft-living, family-friendly scene it is today.

After the club closed, 161 Hudson became luxury condos; residents have included Jon Stewart and Mike Piazza. According to Street Easy, a 1,499-square-foot one-bedroom sold for $1.5 million last fall.

“The neighborhood changed, and the scene changed, and it just wasn’t a good match for kids leaving a show,” Shapiro told the Observer.

Still, thanks, in part, to the super-fun but low-key vibe of Brooklyn Bowl, the spirit of the Wetlands lives on. “Brooklyn Bowl is not the Wetlands,” Shapiro said. “But it was birthed by Wetlands.” — Lisa Keys

[column col=”1/3″]

Average January rents

Studio         $4,464
1 bed           $4,657
2 beds         $8,159
3 beds         $13,273
> 3 beds      $14,325[/column]

[column col=”1/3″]

Average January sale price

Studio         $771,324
1 bed           $1,158,058
2 beds         $2,311,696
3 beds         $3,719,335
>3 beds      $10,000,000[/column]

Source: StreetEasy

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