Lucien Bahaj, ‘Pink Pony’ and ‘Lucien’ Fixture, Dies at 74
Another of the old neighborhood guard has passed on.
Lucien Bahaj, the local icon behind Lower East Side favorites Lucien and the Pink Pony, died last week. He was 74.
According to published reports, he died on July 29.
The Moroccan-born Bahaj founded his eponymous French bistro on First Avenue in 1998. It was a place to bump elbows with downtown creative folk.
“You never knew who you might meet or what creator—famous, infamous, or just an inspiring player—might walk through the door [of Lucien] and join the conversation: from A-listers like Lady Gaga, Tilda Swinton, A$AP Rocky, Ryan Gosling, and Lenny Kravitz, to countless avant-garde cultural figures like Jonas Mekas, Dash Snow, Gary Indiana, Eric N. Mack, Kerby Jean Raymond,” Clayton Patterson wrote in the online publication, Document.
He took over the Pink Pony business – founded in 1989 by Max Fish owner Uli Rimkus – back in 2001. Both establishments shared a lease and emergency egress.
Ludlow Street really hasn’t been the same since the Pony went to pasture in 2013, following years of closure scares. In the end, a gouging rent hike was to blame – from $6,000 to $20,000 per month. These days, it’s home to the uber-trendy Ludlow Coffee Supply.
Patterson, who ran in the same circles as Bahaj, further eulogized his friend…
Lucien’s eatery was his art form and his performance space. Every day, he worked to perfect his art; tasting the food and wines, changing the spices and the mixtures, trying out different seating arrangements, and curating a selection of avant-garde reading material.
The area where Lucien opened Pink Pony—between Delancey and Houston, near where I live—was a dark, dangerous, drug-dealing zone, and Lucien brought in a bright, glowing, positive light. He created a ship that could carry a traveler to an intellectual wonderland filled with inspiring thoughts, ideas, and people. Besides fabulous food, he gave me joy and friendship. I learned so much from being around Lucien. He made me and so many others feel welcome and equal. He was one of a kind; a true New Yorker, a true LESer, and a true friend.