New York City hosts many intriguing venues. One of my favorites is the KGB Bar, in the East Village. A few weeks ago, I read there as part of a Mystery Writers of America (MWA) reading series. It’s a very red and vibrant place. Feels magical. I’ve always been curious about the bar’s history, and this is what I discovered.
Some interesting facts about the KGB Bar:
- First of all, and possibly most importantly, the bar has nothing to do with the KGB secret police. Which, in case you’re wondering, is no more. When the Soviet Union collapsed in 1991, the KGB was dissolved and replaced with the FSB, which is a lot the same. However, none of this has anything to the bar, which was instead named for its founder’s art gallery: Kraine Gallery Bar.
2. The son of a Ukrainian immigrant, Dennis Woychuck, founded the current version of the bar in 1993. Before that it was a speakeasy controlled by gangster Lucky Luciano, and later a private social club for Ukrainian socialists. The stained glass windows, which you can see in the photo, date back to the 1920s.
3. The bar is filled with all sorts of relics from the Soviet era. For example, there’s a photograph of a famous Soviet cosmonaut. Also a portrait of Misha, the symbol of the 1980 Olympics (boycotted by the U.S.) Pretty sure I saw a portrait of Lenin, as well.
4. The list of authors who’ve read there includes: Jonathan Franzen, Joyce Carol Oates, and Lemony Snicket (Daniel Handler).
Susan Breen is the author of the Maggie Dove mystery series. Her stories have been published in Alfred Hitchcock’s Mystery Magazine and Ellery Queen’s Mystery Magazine. The MWA anthology, Crime Hits Home, in which she has a story, just won an Anthony Award Finalist. She teaches novel-writing at Gotham Writers and is on the staff of the New York Write to Pitch Conference. www.susanjbreen.com