fashion says farewell to cult karaoke bar winnie’s

As Chinatown’s cult karaoke spot prepares to close, i-D asks fashion insiders why they'll miss it so much.

by Alice Hines
03 March 2015, 6:27pm

Photography Will Ragozzino/

Only in New York can a bar go from hosting shootouts for a street gang called Ghost Shadows to parties for a fashion blogger named Man Repeller in two short decades.

Or maybe only in Chinatown. In its 28 years, Winnie's, the karaoke bar on Bayard street, has gone from neighborhood dive to cult fashion hangout, all without replacing its 80s-era laserdiscs. Stop by on a weeknight, and you're as likely to see Soho office workers as Chinese grandmothers as Alexa Chung (and maybe all at the same time). The motley mix is part of the charm, particularly when complemented by a signature Hawaiian punch containing no fewer than six liquors.

On the 31st of March, Winnie's will close its doors, as first reported by Vanishing New York. "We will miss it dearly!" says Opening Ceremony's Carol Lim (favorite karaoke tune: Cyndi Lauper's Time after Time). "A number of ideas for projects we've done at Opening Ceremony have come about from memorable nights there."

"My last memory of the place will be me singing Barbra Streisand's I Am a Woman in Love," says Serafina Sama, the designer of Isa Arfen. On Valentine's Day this year, Sama hosted a party with Leandra Medine of Man Repeller, where "guilty pleasures ranged from Hot Child in the City to La Bamba."

Memorable nights were had at 104 Bayard even before it was called Winnie's. Per a 1985 New York article, it was a speakeasy during Prohibition. During the heydey of Chinatown gangs, Winnie's was the site of several late-night scuffles: One NYDN story tells of a Ghost Shadows gang member who in 1989 overthrew his boss by showing up at the bar with 10 friends and a pistol. Luckily, no one ended up firing the gun, and a tourist couple got away safely.

These days, the only scuffles at Winnie's are when one friend encroaches on another's rendition of Drunk in Love (I've witnessed it). Yet even as it attracted new crowds, Winnie's never lost grit. The wood-paneled walls, hilariously large laserdiscs, vinyl booths, and faded songbooks seem like they haven't changed since the 90s, and they probably haven't.

Per a bartender who answered the phone this week, Winnie's hopes to find a new location even after it leaves Bayard street. As for the historic spot? Anything but a juice bar, New Yorkers begged when the news broke.


Text Alice Hines

New York
Opening Ceremony
Alexa Chung
Carol Lim
isa arfen