BUSHWICK — Brothers Sei and Ki Smith are done with police run-ins, unlicensed booze sales and last-minute locale changes for their underground art and music parties.
After police shut down their Bushwick venue, Apostrophe, last fall and charged them with drug possession, the Smith brothers said they decided to go “legit."
Now they're trying to reopen the art gallery and event venue in a new, bigger and more sustainable space — but this time they're planning to get all the right paperwork.
“It could really be a place that could be here for five, 10, 15 years,” Ki, 22, said. “We want to build a following from artists year in and year out and build these scenes and grow with them."
Sei, 24, added: "All of that illegal-ness is a distraction from making really cool art."
The previous location at 440 Irving Ave., where the brothers lived and threw weekly parties, had been illegally converted into a residence, according to Department of Building records.
It was shut down in September. A notice on the front door stated the venue had been closed for selling alcohol without a license, though Ki said he only noticed the sign recently.
Both brothers were charged with possession of drugs, which police found at Apostrophe after a sudden mid-party shutdown.
The criminal charges against the Smiths were adjourned in contemplation of dismissal (ACOD), meaning they will be dismissed entirely if the men stay out of trouble during a period of probation.
Sei said his probationary period recently ended, and Ki's will be complete next year.
Throwing parties and selling booze without a license in random apartments, warehouses and studios offered the same sense of "lawlessness" and "spontaneousness" that first attracted the brothers to Bushwick, they said.
But in the year that Apostrophe was open, the men said they sometimes had to scramble to find new event locations or cancel shows to appease local authorities.
For the brothers, who are now trying to turn Apostrophe into a hub for Bushwick's artists, sustainability matters.
"A venue and gallery is an access point that should be a stable place," Ki said. "To have it underground so that this access point can be swiped away at any time? It's not fair to the artists. That's not right."
Ki said he keeps the city's "order to vacate" notice from their old space taped to his MacBook as a reminder "to go legitimate, to put in the work."
Because doing things legally costs more money, the brothers are hoping for support of Apostrophe's Kickstarter campaign to raise $75,000, which would be used to lease or buy and renovate a space that would most likely be between the DeKalb Avenue and Wilson Avenue L stops.
The areas near Morgan Avenue and Jefferson Street are already too gentrified, the Smiths said.
Still, they are determined to keep the spirit of "lawlessness" alive in the new space, even if there's a bouncer checking IDs at the bar.
The venue will feature rotating art installations and exterior murals. The brothers said they are hopeful many of the same artists and musicians who were showcased at the original Apostrophe will return to the new space, ensuring a similar vibe.
"I’m not worried about losing that energy," Ki said. "It's the artists. They created that energy."