“I mean, is our sign too obnoxious? Is it obnoxious enough?” ponders Ryan Gleason, restaurant operator of Pretty Ricky’s, which judging from its name would leave anyone to believe this newly minted Lower East Side establishment has more to do with wellness or hair care than what it actually is: a grown-up den of delight.
“We’ve got something for everyone here,” he adds, as he points to the 40-ounce Colt 45, then to beverage director Will Wyatt’s simplified list of six cocktails, just when chef Jeremy Spector says “yeah, but we also have a porterhouse steak for two.” Nightlife on the Lower East Side has long been New York’s sloshy spray of dive bars, burlesque clubs, and choose-your-vice houses of ill-repute—and where those under 25 tend to trawl on Saturday night. The latter hasn’t changed much, which is in part responsible for the local vernacular of dubbing Orchard and Ludlow Streets between Rivington and Stanton as “Hell Square,” or “the cologne zone.” Yet, as Gleason says, “people still need a place to go on a Tuesday.” So with Pretty Ricky’s, “there’s always that feeling that 'Oh my god, am I doing right by the neighborhood?'” he adds.
Photo via Instagram / @prettyrickysbar
Gleason, Spector, and Wyatt have long been in hospitality. Along with their cohorts Eric Kruvant (himself “Pretty Ricky”), Darin Rubell (in fact related to the late Studio 54 co-owner Steve Rubell), and Jamie Felber, they have recently formalized their relationship into something of a formal partnership under the umbrella of Paradise Hospitality. Between “this group of six very different personalities and opinions,” as Wyant calls them, the crew has built a roster of formidable bars that are also restaurants, restaurants that are actually bars, and many a cocktail in between. Likely anyone who’s drank downtown has sat on a stool belonging to Paradise Hospitality: whether at near-decade-old Boulton & Watt, newcomer Mister Paradise, once-Cafe Orlin now-Paper Daisy, and shaken-and-stirred Drexler’s.
But Pretty Ricky’s is more flexible than its brethren. Perhaps that stems from its focus on beer, which simply emerged from Gleason’s own proclivities as a brewer ("it’s a pleasure of mine"), or perhaps it arrives from the physical space it's in: the former Spitzer’s Corner. "It was an institution on this corner," adds Wyatt. But at the end of the day, “Food brings people in and keeps people here. And we wanted a beer bar that looked nothing like a beer bar,” says Gleason, "and something that just screamed fun."