By Molly GabelThe Irish Times, New York (N.Y.)
(June 10, 2017)–While Brooklyn and Washington DC have historically been hotbeds for bathhouse businesses, they’re still not in the same league.
Brooklyn is home to more than 70,000 bathhouses, while DC has about 10,000.
And while DC’s bathhouses are still popular, the number of bathhouses in the region has fallen dramatically over the last 20 years, according to data collected by The Irish Time.
According to the data, there were nearly 1,300 bathhouses on the Lower East Side in the late 1990s, but by 2016, the population had fallen by nearly half to about 8,500.
That trend continues today.
Brookyln’s bathhouse population peaked in the early 2000s at about 9,000, but it dropped to just under 5,000 by the early 2020s, according the data.
In 2016, its bathhouse occupancy was just above 2,000 with just over 1,000 baths.
Brookys bathhouse vacancy rate fell from 1.4% in 2016 to 0.4%, according to The Irish Tribune, but that’s because the number dropped from 857 to 633.
The number of rooms declined from 810 to 708, while the number and square footage declined from 1,081 to 811.
The data shows that, as of July 2020, the majority of bath houses in Brooklyn and DC were occupied.
Of those, 63% were in the District, and just over half of those were in Brooklyn.
In DC, there was a smaller number of vacant bathhouses but more than twice as many as in Brooklyn, according data compiled by the Times.
“This is a city with a lot of history, but there’s also a lot to offer and I think that’s the challenge for all of us to embrace the beauty of it,” said Katie Mihm, who runs the Brooklyn Baking Co. and runs her own restaurant, The Mihmas.
She said it’s important for bathhouses to maintain their charm and to take advantage of the city’s natural beauty.
“The fact that it’s in the heart of our city, that we have this beautiful water, the fact that the trees and grass are here and the beaches are out there, I think is a really appealing thing to people,” MihM said.
Mihm has also noticed a decrease in the number her restaurants have opened.
She said she is looking for more new, larger, more affordable, and tasteful bathhouses.
“We need more options for people to go into a place and say, ‘Hey, this is what I like to eat, this’s what I want to drink,’ ” she said.
But she said that the decline of the bathhouse industry is happening at the same time as a surge in tourism.
“The people that come in, they have families, they want to stay in the city,” she said, adding that she has heard that people are more interested in the food.
While the numbers don’t exactly support the assertion that the bathhouses industry is dying, Miham believes that the industry is slowly dying.
“I think we’re going to see a shift to other forms of tourism, not just in Brooklyn but across the country,” she predicted.
Brooky Baths has not taken a big hit since its inception in 1997, but Mihlma said that she expects to see similar declines in the coming years.
She added that she is encouraged by the number that have taken to the street.
“I think the city is getting younger, and people are getting married, people are having kids and there’s a greater desire to do things outdoors and to do a lot more,” she told The Irish Reporter.
“That’s something that’s going to continue to grow.
There’s no denying that.”