While searching for a new space, Aquadora contacted a real estate broker, whose number someone had seen on the side of a building near The Glass Door. “We called him and told him what we were looking for, and he showed us a couple of beautiful places.” One of those places was 929 Broadway, which was uncannily suited for Jonny’s purposes. At the time, the building’s facade bore a sign from the previous occupant, a party supply store. Fixed above the shutters in five-foot-high rainbow letters were the words “Party EXPO.” He didn’t even have to change the name.
Even with the Glass Door settlement, Aquadora was still short on the initial deposit for the new space. The difference was made up by small investments from friends, and Party EXPO’s first show was held in January of 2010, a benefit featuring regulars from The Glass Door. The show’s lineup reads like a who’s who of Brooklyn’s D.I.Y. punk scene: Japanther, Death Set, Cerebral Ballzy, DJ Roofeeo, DJ Dirty Fingers and at least 13 other acts played from the afternoon well into the night.
With the money from the show, Aquadora was able to put down the deposit and begin the Herculean task of cleanup, and of rebuilding its collapsing infrastructure. There was no stage; bands simply played on the floor, surrounded by the crowd. There was no bar, except for a makeshift table that sometimes appeared beneath a collapsing stairwell or on the second floor, which was all exposed wood lit by whatever could be rigged. The third floor didn’t even have light. The doors of the two bathrooms on the first floor were unhinged; to use the bathroom with any privacy, you had to ask a friend to hold the door—not closed— but upright so it wouldn’t fall out of the doorframe. Trash was everywhere.
But while money and repairs remained priorities, Party EXPO was besieged by more direct challenges, both from within and without. “One of the hardest things about getting the place cleaned up was that there were people living here,” says Aquadora. Because living at his venue in Vermont and doing the same at The Glass Door had worked, it seemed to be a given that Party EXPO would double as a residence. But for whatever reason, that didn’t work this time. “Living in the same place makes it really hard to actually have a good flow.”
Thankfully, everyone eventually left. Some were evicted for owing back rent to Aquadora and the landlord; others decided to leave of their own accord. Even Aquadora found an apartment nearby. “When everyone moved out of here, you could come here and do work, you were able to concentrate. Everyone’s different; everyone needs their personal space.”
As the cleanup and repairs progressed, Party EXPO continued to host concerts and parties to fund the renovation. Although the venue didn’t have a liquor license, beers, shots and simple mixed drinks were served on occasion. The illegally flowing alcohol and crowds that began to appear drew the ire of the local police precinct. Shows were raided, citations delivered, owners arrested, and the venue’s application for a liquor license was stalled again and again. Aquadora recalls the bartender once serving beer to two walk-ins—only to have them reveal themselves to be undercover officers. The bartender, the person working the door and Aquadora were all immediately arrested.
What was perhaps the largest fiasco occurred in May of 2010, during a book release party for Gavin McInnes’ Street Boners. (Full disclosure: I organized this event.) The stand-up show, dance party, and concert featuring Das Racist and Wyldlife, attracted around 400 attendees—100 more than Party EXPO’s venue space could accommodate. Lines spilled onto the sidewalk, and an attempt to turn people away, the front door was shuttered and partygoers were let out through the back alley. This was soon discovered, and a crowd began forming there. The back gate was locked, but people began scaling it, and soon enough, the police arrived. With the cops coming in through the back and the front entrance still shuttered, the people inside were trapped—with their drinks. A makeshift bar on the second floor was disassembled before the police could find it, but there was ample evidence that people were drinking in Party EXPO, even if they had not purchased those drinks from the venue. The shutter was eventually raised, and everyone told to leave. Aquadora received multiple citations, and his liquor license application seemed doomed. Das Racist never took the stage, and Wyldlife performed one song.
To add insult to injury, 929 Broadway’s former occupant, the owner of the party supply store, threatened the venue with a lawsuit unless it changed its name and removed the sign out front. So in early September of 2010, the venue took down the sign, sacrificed a letter, and lurched on as Party XPO.