So long and thanks for all the (Max) Fish
Though the bar's now called "Max Fish," the inspiration for its name -- left over from the space's previous life as a Judaica store -- is still evident above the front door. Come end of summer, however, that'll be all that remains of what has become an iconic skater/artist/locals' haven since 1989. The Fish will swim across the river to Williamsburg (and more budget-friendly environs); follow its journey on Instagram at @maxfishbar.
Photographer/musician and longtime employee Quindell Willis (L) poses with proprietor Ulli Rimkus, who, in 1989, transformed a Judaica store into the bohemian bar Max Fish is today (and will remain so over in Williamsburg). Her decision to move the bar's location is reportedly due to massive rent increases in its current space.
Photographs by Jason Goldwatch are part of the "End of Days" exhibit Max Fish is housing until July 24, shortly after which the bar walls will be painted over, the jukebox silent and the last sips taken from well-loved glasses.
The interior of the Ludlow Street location is as hectic as the crowd is thick on a Saturday night. It remains to be seen how the crew will pull off decorating their new digs in Williamsburg.
Keep On Keepin' On
They wouldn't let just anyone crack beers behind the bar at Max Fish. Most of 'em had a hell of a side gig going, like longtime bartenders John Drury, left, a glass blower and artist, and Harry Druzd, right, an artist and the drummer for the band Endless Boogie. Bar manager Allan Windsor sees no evil, center.
The "End of Days" show is truly multimedia, with photos, show-bill-style posters and even electric signage. Artist George Horner created these messages -- fitting statements for Max Fish's final hours.
The allure of Max Fish is strong enough that even the most elusive music-world darlings -- like Chan Marshall, of Cat Power -- will make an exception and become regulars. Marshall is a longtime close friend of bar owner Ulli Rimkus.
Daytime? It's cool, we're open. Jaiko, a longtime patron of Max Fish, takes up one of the bar's less hedonistic amusements.
Projects by Brooklyn art cooperative FAILE -- made up of Patrick McNeil and Patrick Miller -- often include comic-style illustrations like this one. "Return to the Sacred Lands!" compels the bottom-right lettering; ironically, it's the revered Ludlow Street location that is being left behind, however reluctantly, by Max Fish this summer.
In the Fish, it's hard to tell where the exhibits begin and the more permanent artwork ends. Could you consider Neck Face a fixture?
Max Fish has had a long run here on the Lower East Side. For almost 25 years it's played host to the most shadowy of bar flies as well as skateboard pros and the odd Hollywood celebrity. Here, Jason Goldwatch's photo, part of the Fish's "End of Days" collection, evokes permanent emotion -- a feeling well understood by the bar's longtime patrons.
Patron Lucy lounges against one of Max Fish's other distractions: a vintage Sega arcade game.
Max Fish has become, in the last decade or so, a regular hangout for pro skateboarders. Local or visiting, if you're in NYC, you'll hit the Fish at some point.
Pass The Mic
Sometimes the music came from the jukebox; sometimes it came from the corner. Yelawolf spits live at Max Fish.
According to photographer/"Epicly Later'd" host Patrick O'Dell, "When I first went to Max Fish, it was significantly more of a bohemian/LES artist/musician bar. It didn't seem overly 'skater' 15 years ago. I think [brothers] Marc and Tino Razo really opened that up." Tino (pictured) tended bar here for more than a decade, but has since moved on to the bright sunshine of Los Angeles.
Home To Roost
Even The Birdman makes his nest at Max Fish from time to time. Here he's flanked by photographer/musician Quindell Willis (L) -- a longtime employee -- and photographer Atiba Jefferson (R).
Art's so much of Max Fish's legacy and identity that it's not surprising the bar issued a calendar in the mid-'90s.
Dot, Dot, Dot
One of the original Anti-Hero board-graphic designers in the mid-'90s, Chris Johanson's gone on to a storied career that even includes the Whitney Biennial exhibition. The artist seems right at home on the illustrated banquette here at Max Fish.
Max Fish was a meeting point for artists, skateboarders, locals, misfits and anyone else who wanted a cold one in the neighborhood. Here, the real-life Bobby poses with her likeness in the window of the bar. This statue will move to the new location in Brooklyn.
Former Max Fish bartender Jaleel Bunton, of Brooklyn-based indie-rock band TV on the Radio, cues up a track.
Every inch of Max Fish's Ludlow location is covered in art, from hanging lights to dummy busts to framed photos to paintings, collages and more. Even the restroom is a strata of stickers and tags laid down by patrons over almost 25 years of business here.
Turns out this Fish will need a bicycle. It's not a long ride over the bridge to Williamsburg, but in terms of character, the bar's new location is miles away. Though locals are sad to see these doors close one last time, a new crop of regulars is bound to quickly develop in Brooklyn. Here's one final glance at the venerable Max Fish; you don't have to go home, but you can't stay here.