As swanky lounges and eclectic restaurants crowd the Lower East Side, a local institution may restore the immigrant corridor’s watering-hole roots. The Lower East Side Tenement Museum plans to renovate an outdoor privy at its showcase building on Orchard and Broome by next January and, the following year, restore the basement saloon that Bavarian immigrant John Schneider ran there from 1864 to 1886.
“We are hoping to complicate perceptions of what a saloon was,” says research manager David Favaloro. “The German immigrant saloon was a family institution — working men certainly brought their wives and their children with them to relax and enjoy community.” So does that mean beer? “We are planning to offer visitors a chance to taste history by offering foods and beverages that he included,” hedges Favaloro. But someone familiar with the museum’s thinking, who asked for anonymity to avoid muddying the fund-raising waters, specifies “beer and sauerkraut” for the thousands of visitors who love the tenement tours. Let’s not forget the thousands of visitors who love the Lower East Side from Thursday to Sunday. We just hope the privy can handle it. —Alec Appelbaum