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Memory Motel Pop-Up Hosts Rock Royalty

Thu, 12/07/2023 - 10:18

Keith Richards’s daughter takes over the turntable

Brian Kenny of the Memory Motel with Alexandra Richards, a D.J. who played a set at the Memory Motel pop-up in Manhattan’s East Village on Sunday.
Ebis Hernande

Montauk was cold and damp on Sunday, quiet and dark befitting late autumn, the throngs of summer visitors long gone.

Downtown, the Memory Motel, built in the mid-1920s and immortalized a half-century later in the Rolling Stones’ song of the same name, was shuttered and silent.

But on an adjacent island 116 miles west of Montauk’s downtown, the party was just getting started as the light faded from the Manhattan skyline. On Third Avenue in the East Village, the drinks were flowing at Memory Motel, this one a 69-day pop-up bar that bears quite a resemblance to its namesake to the east, down to the exterior painting of the Montauk watering hole.

History doesn’t repeat itself, but it rhymes. In 1975, the Rolling Stones famously spent time at Eothen, Andy Warhol’s 30-acre oceanfront compound east of Montauk’s downtown, spending their time in Montauk rehearsing for an American tour, partying at Shagwong Tavern, and drawing inspiration from the Memory Motel. The Mick Jagger and Keith Richards-penned, piano-driven ballad is a standout among the band’s immense catalog.

In 2023, more than six decades after their founding, the Rolling Stones released an album of new music and announced another American tour. And at the Memory Motel pop-up’s first “Sundays Are Half the Weekend” party, the D.J., Alexandra Richards, a daughter of Mr. Richards and his wife, Patti Hansen, spun an exhilarating set of uptempo tunes for a throng of enthusiastic young Manhattanites. 

Ms. Richards, who has D.J.’d at the Surf Lodge in Montauk, is striking and statuesque like her mother, a former model. Perhaps her love of music comes from her father, who is among rock-and-roll’s most influential guitarists and who has written many of the genre’s most memorable riffs while also demonstrating a gift for sweet and tender balladry. Her set was a seamless amalgamation encompassing hits large and small, new and old by artists including Romy, Beyonce, Lykke Li, and Wet Leg as well as the Strokes, the White Stripes, Talking Heads, Chemise, even the Bee Gees.

“We’re really excited to have her,” Brian Kenny, the majority owner of Montauk’s Memory Motel, said before Ms. Richards’s set. “I think for what we’re trying to do with Memory Motel, she’s a perfect fit.”

And what is it they are trying to do? “We’ve been looking for a place in New York City for a long time that we felt would fit the Memory brand,” Mr. Kenny said. “We stumbled across this East Village location and it had all the elements that we thought could make for an awesome Memory Motel, and we moved pretty quickly. We had started having conversations at the beginning of October, and we did a brand deal before Halloween.”

“It didn’t take too long to get Fridays and Saturdays off the ground,” he said. “Now we’re going to focus on Sundays. We think Sunday is the new Monday — it’s the industry day for New York City workers to go out, and we’re trying to embrace that.”

While Ms. Richards played the music, Alex Propson of the Bravo reality television shows “Below Deck Sailing Yacht” and “Winter House” made drinks behind the bar, his Bravo colleagues Jordan Emanuel and Tumi Mhlongo cheering him on.

The pop-up is a partnership with the Common Ground restaurant/nightspots in Manhattan and East Hampton. The Memory Motel brand is also represented by a new merchandise business.

Unlike its Montauk counterpart, the pop-up serves food, including burgers, nachos, tacos, and wings, which Mr. Kenny said has been received positively. “We’re trying to keep it simple,” he said. “For what it’s worth, I think it’s the right time in New York nightlife to welcome a place like this to the area.”

The pop-up is due to close in mid-January, though that could change. “It’s a 69-day pop-up,” Mr. Kenny said. “We’re here for a good time, not a long time.”

 

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