The owner of Williamsburg's Monkey Town tells us there's "the tiniest pinprick of light under the door" suggesting that he may not have to close down his eclectic restaurant and performance space on January 24th. According to owner Montgomery Knott, his landlords—a group of four artists who own the building—violated an agreement made over the summer, and he's suing them in state Supreme Court for $1.2 million. If his lawyer can persuade a judge that the landlords violated a signed stipulation, Monkey Town's demise could be delayed. But if that happens, Knott will be in a bind because he stopped programming acts after January 24th. And that's where musician Yoko Ono might come in.
Sean Lennon likes Monkey Town, and a friend of Ono's is trying to get her to fill in with a performance that would surely double as a fundraiser for the embattled club. "It's strange how these things come about when you're on your death bed," Knott says. He's been withholding rent since July, and says the landlords (who include artists Oliver Lyons and Aaron Yassin) took too much space for a staircase in his front room (costing Knott four dinner seats), didn't make good on their promise to redo the facade, and generally made a big mess of the place with sketchy contractors.
"They've squeezed us dry," Knott tells us. "Last year was the first year I made over minimum wage, and I still make less than a dishwasher. I'm personally $150,000 in debt." But the Monkey Town operation itself has a light debt load, and if Knott ends up closing as planned, the owners of Mr. Black have expressed interest in taking over the lease and turning Monkey Town into a gay nightclub. "That would be fine with me," Knott says. "I'd be happy to walk away from this place and shut the door." He currently has no plans to relocate the Monkey Town concept somewhere else, which is a loss for Williamsburg, because it was a consistent source of adventurous music, video, performance and food.