G-Train Roundtable: Three Club Owners Shed Light On Building A Community While Drinking Lots Of Beer, Hosting Underground Art Parties

by M.J. Koury · February 22, 2011

    Greenpoint just earned even more hipster cred with a well-placed Winona Ryder homage. Heather Millstone, owner of the beloved East Village “everyone bar” Heather’s, has unveiled a sequel called “Veronica People’s Club” on industrial Franklin Street in Brooklyn along with Stevie Howlett and Dre Herrera. -

    A cozy and quietly striking space of exposed brick, curved wood benches and loft ceilings, the joint (which opened in July) plays host to some of the best underground art parties in New York City. It also promises to bring community to the neighborhood with Sunday night suppers and book readings. We checked in to see how the art-space-watering-hole hybrid is going.

    GofG: What’s in the job description for running Veronica People’s Club?

    Dre: We’re all here everyday. We pop in and talk about what’s happening, what needs to be done. This place is constantly evolving since it’s so fresh and young. It’s a child.

    Heather: It needs a lot of love. Maybe more like a puppy.

    Dre: A puppy? Are you more comfortable with a puppy?

    Heather: I am- with a child we can be not here. But if you’re not here with a puppy, you could come back to find your favorite book torn to shreds or your mixtape eaten.

    GofG: Heather’s Bar is a total success.

    Heather: Heather’s is totally great. I got really lucky with that one. I got lucky, because one of my good friends was dating this guy Noah who was really good friends with these two DJs, Max and Kevin. Kevin has a record company called What’s Your Rupture, and he represented bands like The Long Blondes and Love is All, Cause Commotion—a lot of Brooklyn bands. They always DJed my birthday parties and with Nowhere Bar, we’d have these rooftop parties. Vito of The Rapture would be co-DJing, and it’s the year that House of Jealous Lovers came out and it was like, ‘Wow, all this stuff is happening.’ It was this weekly party, and all these big name people were coming through to DJ, but it was just like everybody hanging out with their friends, and no one made a big deal out of it, overly promoted it, the name didn’t get out there and saturate it in a way that was like, “Oh, that place is going to rise and fall.” I owe everything to Max and Kevin and Noah.

    GofG: How did you find this space in Greenpoint?

    Heather: I was looking through Craigslist trying to find a new studio space, and I came across this. We came here and checked it out, and I was like, “Fuck. Guess we’re building a bar.”

    Stevie: We started to find out more about the space. It was intriguing, because we’d heard things about it being a punk club in the seventies. And we found photographs and paraphernalia and stuff lying around.

    Heather: Explanations for the ghost.

    Stevie: It was like, “Wow, kids really used to hang out here in the late 70’s, early 80’s.”

    Heather: And if you look at the photographs, they kind of look not so different!

    GofG: What kind of club do you want VPC to be?

    Dre: We’re definitely not a club in the term of “club.” We’re just like a bigger Heather’s.

    Heather: “People’s Club” came from when we were scouting out the space. It was all dark; you have to imagine this place completely ramshackled and gutted. Absolutely nothing in there. One single light hanging. When we were leaving, I saw that the door had the word ‘people’ on it and I took my flashlight to the door and it said ‘People’s Club.’ And that’s exactly what we do: a people’s club. Veronica is the Winona Ryder character in Heathers. I always knew the next place was going to be “Veronica.” And we added People’s Club. So we just kind of went from that into developing this concept that we knew would be evolving. We’re launching other businesses along with our own. This company Ovenly, who’s been doing our pastries. We’re a venue to allow other people to grow with us. When I was in art school, you get some people who want to attack people. You attack people to bring them down and you’re a big fish in a small pond. The best thing you can do is you can all be great, and then you’re a greater whole. We do that with independent chefs and artists. We’re trying to allow other people to kind of express themselves.

    GofG: Can you tell us about one of your favorite nights at the bar?

    Heather: We had this Sunday night supper. We had the guy who started curating all our suppers for us, Jeremy Parker. We had Brendan Stosuy from Stereogum, Alex Ross, a music critic [from The New Yorker], Drew from Matmos came up from Baltimore, and Angel from The Dirty Projectors. It was this very weird, experimental night. It was just the most beautiful vibe of everyone coming together. That was frickin’ great.

    Dre: We have this relationship with Fader that started with Heather’s, and we do a webisode called “Open Bar,” where different bands will do an acoustic set and it’s recorded and put up on the Fader website. And George is a dear friend. Now he goes by Twin Shadow. They made Heather’s night by ending with a Fleetwood Mac cover.

    Heather: Everybody broke out in song.

    GofG: What do you hope for the future of VPC?

    Dre: I’m just really looking forward to when VPC becomes the people’s bar, their neighborhood bar. It’s already happening. We have local residents that are here all the time. I also look forward to continuing to be that space where new creative energy is constantly coming in, and we’re having all kinds of events whether it’s readings, films being premiered. Secretly I want Winona Ryder to come here.

    Heather: As long as you have integrity and things are organically moving in the direction you need them to, that will keep everything in check.

    Dre: It’s hard to go straight up and stay up. We never wanted that. We’re not trying to be the coolest kid on the block.

    Heather: Just a cool kid.

    Dre: Just a very nice person.