In Part III of our exclusive conversation with Taavo Somer and Ken Friedman, the owners of the Rusty Knot discuss the original name for the bar, the hype surrounding the opening, their patrons, and becoming a west side destination. Click here for previous installments.
DBTH: You've been open for six months. What is the biggest surprise so far?
Taavo Somer: Biggest surprise is Sunset. The original name was the Sunset Lounge because Ken loved it for the sunsets. I always imagined that we would be busy from 9, 10 o’clock until closing. When we opened, we got busy at 4:00, and 8:00 was the busiest time. We actually got a sunset crowd.
Ken Friedman: People do want to do what I want to do, which is watch the sunset while getting a buzz on.
T: I keep waiting for the pool table to develop a game. I went through the late 90’s Cherry tavern phase where it became a mini clubhouse. I played pool a couple of times a week and saw the same people. There was this pool scene. I keep expecting it to happen here but it hasn’t. Most nights I want to play I can just walk over and play.
DBTH: You mentioned the Economic Stimulus plan for finance casualties. Did you expect this to become an afterwork hangout for bankers?
T: No. But I didn’t know what to expect because I never hung out that much in the West Village. I live in the East Village and work there, the Lower East Side. So I 'm used to that bubble. I thought I would open this place with Ken and it would be the same people I m used to seeing from the Lower East Side. It was for a bit but the reality is that we are so far west that it’s just involved into a neighborhood place.
K: Most neighborhoods draw from every direction. But no one comes east from here and not a lot of people live on the west side highway. It’s different than the Spotted Pig or Freemans where your customers come from there or there (pointing up and over). This is the ultimate destination – this is really a destination. Most everyone who comes here is taking a cab.
DBTH: And are you happy with that?
T: Thing I always imagined or fantasized about this place is that at 11:00 or midnight on Thursday night and there would be snow on the highway and plow trucks coming by and it just being the best place to hang out. But I like empty bars.
K: Well if you are looking for an empty bar, you came to the wrong place Mr. Somer.
T: I know. That would be another surprise.
K: Maybe your wish will come true. Maybe we can start getting emptier and emptier.
T: It’s a catch 22 because, with your friends, in the beginning they always wanna come here and then they come and it’s too crowded to get in. It’s like the famous saying “its so crowded no one goes there anymore.
K: Yogi Berra
DBTH: We have had that experience here, but its calmed down.
T: That’s the goal. You can move around freely or sit and it if you want to. Just an easier and more manageable thing. Not a sweatbox.