A new start at ol’ New York Pizza
By: Katei Cranford
Love it or hate it, the cultural impression New York Pizza ingrained into Greensboro is undeniable. Through turbulent years of highs and lows and a round of new ownership, there’s a fresh set of NYPeeps at the helm, pressing forward with a new chapter (and a slew of shows) for the infamous spot at Tate and Walker.
On April 20, NYP-veterans Corporate Fandango headline a heady show with Elusive Groove, Sibannac, The Madd Hatters, Murdub and Creekwood.
On April 21, the corner plays double-duty with a rock ’n’ roll video shoot for Trailer Park Orchestra during the day. And later that night it’ll host a hip-hop show with Dope KNife, Eric Isn’t, Dopey Graham, ILLPO, OC Taylor and Ahken Rah.
There’s a lotta layers of the onion that is New York Pizza, the flavors of which have waxed and waned cyclically over the past 40-some years. The place could easily boast a local bar creed akin to the Postal Service: wind or rain, sleet or snow, NYP is there…until an abrupt day in February when a sign on the door read: closed indefinitely.
“We were closed for 23 days,” said bartender and booker Mia Aranda. “The new owners had to renovate and meet code.” Word of the closure reverberated through local Facebook channels, particularly for folks who had shows booked. “We managed to keep most of our shows but moved them around to other bars. We have a great support system throughout Greensboro.”
The closure came on the heels of new ownership months before in the face of controversies brewing years before that. It’s not hard to speculate problems in the operation. The show space came together as we know it now around 2011 under the guise of bar-angel Rosie Fernandez who suddenly left in late 2016 (she moved to Boxcar and hosts a Saturday afternoon show series). Matty Sheets followed-suit in early 2017, moving his Tuesday Open Mic to Westerwood.
The 2016 patio dilemma continues to this day as the new crew learns to wrangle a tricky spot like New York Pizza. Clearly, issues plaguing the place go beyond renovating restaurant equipment.
Aranda understands the work ahead.
“I love every show we put together, even when the outcome isn’t what we hoped. Bands have a great time, as does whatever crowd comes through,” she says optimistically. “It’s really cool to see the dynamics between the different friend groups, and the way everyone kind of merges together as ‘NYP family.’ It’s one of the most inclusive, accepting places I’ve ever seen, which is what kept me coming back; and is why I wanted to work here. It’s what I want to build.“
Aranda isn’t alone. At her side is fellow NYP booker Luke Williams who sees success in the team they’ve built.
It’s that sort of attitude bar-manager Jeff Losh acknowledges as necessary, “Luke and Mia have been a huge help, without them there would be no NYP as it exists today.”
Of the pair’s progress, Williams notes, “working together kicked us into overdrive. We’re booked out months in advance at this point.”
All three see operations of New York Pizza going beyond just hosting shows at a bar.
For Aranda, “NYP is more about the companionship. We just want to have a good time and support the arts, especially on a local level.”
Williams reinforces ideals of artistic support, “we’re trying to provide a place for bands to come that wouldn’t be able to otherwise. We have a serious lack of smaller-sized venues. But here, we’ve been able to start fostering community. 100 percent of the door goes to the bands, always. Hospitality is key.”
Beyond show dynamics, the patio situation has been a revolving headache for staff and patrons alike. Losh is quick to address the “Patiogate” saga, hyping plans for “dope seating both inside and out,” and bringing former barkeep Eric Moss back for exterior design alongside fellow artist Lennie Alehat.
While Tate Street morphs into a rising sea of chain restaurants, NYP serves as an anchor to the weirdos and music community of Greensboro. Pizza Pile, a weekly jam session, remains in full effect. Host Charles Frank regards NYP as a “haven for the counterculture and alternative communities of Greensboro and of the UNCG area.”
It’s that haven Aranda hopes to uphold in this new chapter for NYP, “I’ve seen people give their last dollars to make sure someone else ate for the day. I love this place, and want nothing more than to see it be successful.”
Katei Cranford is a GSO rock-n-roller, NC mover-n-shaker, and all-around Triad music aficionado. She chats up tunes and towns as hostess of Mostly Local Monday, a radio show that runs like a mixtape of bands playing NC the following week. You can catch her on WUAG 103.1FM every Monday from 5-7pm or via live stream at www.wuag.net.