By John Smith • 03 September 2023 • 13:23
Tommy Greco at The Ritz Bar & Lounge
Credit: tgrexs Instagram
New York club and bar owner Tommy Greco describes himself as a ‘Woke Moderate’ which almost seems to be a contradiction in terms but as he told Euro Weekly News, “The closer we come to the middle, the shorter the distance for us to shake hands.”
He should know because he created a Gay Bar and Club in what was a ‘conservative’ part of New York known as Restaurant Row 17-years ago and he is still going strong.
“I have always been a bar tender at heart even supporting myself though college and I discovered early on in Connecticut that you got bigger tips with less hassle on a Sunday evening Gay Night than any other part of the week.”
He moved to New York City in 1997 to work as an equity trader, but his heart wasn’t really in the job and after 9/11 left to help his older brother who ran a Gay neighbourhood bar called POSH and this confirmed his earlier impression that this was a clientele he could work with.
On the lookout to run his own business, he found the ideal location just a few blocks away on Restaurant Row but as it became known that he was dragging the Gay crowd into a very central location, the old school restaurateurs didn’t welcome him with open arms.
“In fact, they really tried everything to stop me and I had to get the entire refurbishment completed in two and a half months as building inspectors were descending on us almost every day.
“The thing was however, once we were up and running, those same business owners suddenly discovered that wealthy Gay men arrived at their restaurants for dinner before going to my Ritz Bar & Lounge for their late evening entertainment so suddenly I was everyone’s friend!”
The intention was always that this should be an all inclusive place for people to meet and mix with no pressure on any group and early in its existence, Tommy introduced a body positive happy hour for those with HIV where they could meet and just talk about their experiences (with a private entrance at the side for those who wanted to remain anonymous) and this ran for 10 years.
The bar and lounge also became an ideal place for book launches, charity events and somewhere for famous celebrities such as Lady Gaga, Jennifer Hudson, Erasure (who also performed there) Sara Jessica Parker and many more to hang out.
Laughing, Tommy said “I am not normally starstruck but when Madonna hired the second floor to celebrate the birthday of her then personal trainer Tracy Anderson, I didn’t expect her to turn up, but not only did she come to the celebration but she thanked me for allowing her to hire the floor.
“She was so nice and I thought that I should be thanking her!”
It’s not all rosy in the Ritz Garden and during the lockdown, Tommy with some of the Drag Queens who work for him were literally on the street selling drinks to passers-by to keep some form of turnover.
Now with property prices and rents forcing many people to move to the suburbs, it’s harder work than ever but with regular events like Tuesday’s Latin/Caribbean party and Thursday’s Gay African American event, he is optimistic about the future.
Tommy is quite realistic about the dangers of being too controlling as he explained “My biggest issue with the whole Woke movement. It’s like the genie in the bottle. Once you let it out, it’s not ever going back in. So, you have to be careful how it’s laid out and used.”
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Married to Ophelia in Gibraltar in 1978, John has spent much of his life travelling on security print and minting business and visited every continent except Antarctica.
Having retired several years ago, the couple moved to their house in Estepona and John became a regular news writer for the EWN Media Group taking particular interest in Finance, Gibraltar and Costa del Sol Social Scene.
Currently he is acting as Editorial Consultant for the paper helping to shape its future development.
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