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Lower East Side Rumor Redux: Live Music and Back Room Deals

Back in June, we ran a list of four Lower East Side rumors we'd been hearing. Two are long since settled—Tiny's Giant Sandwich shop has moved into its spiffy new digs opposite Schiller's, and the tower next to Tonic turned out to be the glory that is BLUE—but we'd been left hanging on the other two. Stumbling home on Rivington Street last night, we gasped aloud when we realized the new live music venue from the Dark Room owner (rumor #1) was open for business. Looks to have an upstairs and a downstairs space, sort of Rothko meets Pianos. (We kid. Sort of.) Check out the photo above. Yes, we're delighted; thanks for asking. [UPDATE: The venue name is Fat Baby.]

And then there was rumor #4: "Word on the street is that Susan Sarandon and Tim Robbins have purchased Norfolk Street hangout Lansky Lounge, with plans to remake it into a celeb-friendly club." Perhaps you've heard by now of a little spot called The Back Room—which is set in the old Lansky Lounge space. Was the celebrity connection true? An intrepid Curbed reader ventured into the heart of darkness to investigate. What he found may (or may not) alarm you—after the jump, of course.

A Curbed reader (actually by way of Eater) writes:

Please hear me out because this is complicated but fascinating. A recent Gawker Stalker reported that Tim Robbins was observed slinging drinks at the new Back Room. Back in June, Tim and Susan brought a huge posse to the Auction House after the premier of War of the Worlds. I know, because I was there, making sympathetic eye contact with Susan as young PA-types flirted with Tim. I thought it was strange that they would bring this big party all the way up to 89th Street since they live on the West Side and the premier was at the Beekman, a good 30 blocks downtown. Surely, I thought, there would be an official-unofficial after-party in Midtown or downtown Clubland. My suspicions were heightened by Tim’s getting chummy with the bar owner/manager, and he even STEPPED BEHIND THE BAR to pour a few cocktails.

Well, I decided to check the New York State Liquor Authority’s website to see if there is any connection between the Back Room and the Auction House, and if Tim Robbins represented a link between the two. Nothing conclusive, but here’s what I discovered: the liquor license holder of the Auction House is not disclosed by the Alcoholic Beverage Control (ABC) website (the business is listed simply as 300 E 89th St Rest. Corp). And the Back Room or Lansky Lounge or any other business at 104 Norfolk is not listed at all.

HOWEVER! There is someone named Denise Leonard who holds licenses for vaguely named businesses such as Spring Rest. Group (in Nolita), East Side Rest. Group (UES), and 106 Norfolk St LLC (dba Lulu’s—right next door to the new Back Room)!

Ok, I’m sorry for all the exclamation points, but here’s the kicker. I just saw the snaps of Back Room on Eater today, and it is decorated in exactly the same style as the Auction House! I mean, it is virtually identical. A downtown alter-ego.

A Google search reveals nothing about Denise Leonard. Anywho reveals that she shares a phone number with a man named Michael Burlingham in Tribeca, and Mike shares a Tribeca address with art dealer Rose Burlingham. It also appears that somebody named Bill Burlingham ran for some indeterminate office sometime in the past, and Tim and Susan (and many other celebs) contributed to his campaign. But there the trail runs cold. Surely someone has the vital information required to clear up this mystery.And indeed, someone does. Cue Time Out New York reporter (and former downtown blogger) Leslie Price, who reported last week: "Another would-be hidden haven has surfaced on the Lower East Side-in the speakeasy space that was formerly Lansky Lounge. Look for a sign affixed to a streetside metal gate that reads THE LOWER EAST SIDE TOY COMPANY. Pass through the gate and walk the length of a stone-walled subterranean alleyway, then up a set of stairs to enter the Back Room. Once inside, you'll see a dimly lit den fitted with paisley fabric wall panels and a gleaming wood bar. Cocktails are served Prohibition-style in tea cups, and bottled beer is brown-bagged by the barkeeps before being served. A trick bookcase at the far end of the high-ceilinged space leads to the real 'back room,' a hidden lounge where the joint's celeb partners, actor Tim Robbins and hockey player Mark Messier, entertain their famous friends." It all must mean something, to someone. Right?
· Curbed: Lower East Side Rumor Roundup [Curbed]
· Eater Inside Special Report: The Back Room [~E~]