Sex Change On Sixth Street: Joe’s Bar Becomes Josie’s

josie'sSarah Darville Kirk Marcoe at the bar.

“It’s going from a crappy, super dive bar to a more appealing one,” said Fred Brown yesterday as he helped turn Joe’s Bar into Josie’s.

Kirk Marcoe, a new co-owner of the longstanding bar on East Sixth Street near Avenue B said it would reopen with a slightly cleaner look and a new name in mid-July. “We all appreciate a good dive bar, but that doesn’t mean it can’t have clean restrooms,” he said.

Mr. Marcoe and Rich Corton, who together also own Mona’s and Sophie’s, said they both had a special appreciation for Joe’s. They spent much of the late 1980s and ’90s playing pool there, and still live blocks away. And Mr. Brown met a woman at the bar who’s still with him 17 years later.

Mr. Marcoe’s story about a former girlfriend wasn’t quite as romantic: “She broke up with me in this bar, right over there,” he said, pointing to a spot near the front windows.

josie's 2Sarah Darville

When Joe Vajda, the proprietor of Joe’s, died last November, Mr. Marcoe and Mr. Corton decided they wanted to be the ones to keep its legacy alive. In researching the location, Mr. Marcoe said they found out that the space had been continuously operating as a bar for over 100 years, and in the 1910s the building even had a bowling alley in the basement.

Their respect for history means they’re taking a careful approach to renovations. The wallpaper, stained from decades of cigarette smoke, will be stripped but replaced with the same pattern, they said. Other relics of the bar’s past, from a deer’s head on the wall to most of the bar, will remain.

“There’s no other way to do it. You have to do it within the context of what the East Village was, is, and represents,” Mr. Marcoe said. “We love this neighborhood. We’re not here to make a quick buck, we’re here because Joe died and we liked to drink in this bar.”

Some things have already changed. The windows, once full of plants, are getting seats; a new door is being attached, the back of the bar has been replaced, and Mr. Brown said that they would bring in new TVs and a projector for big games. And yes, the bathrooms have been gutted.