There’s a bumper crop of new drinking and partying establishments coming up in Gowanus.
Anchored by the , , and summer party favorite Gowanus Grove (formerly BKLYN Yard), nourished by art and culture outlets like and Proteus Gowanus, the once-desolate industrial zone has become a destination point for major touring acts as well as local folks looking to get down.
Adding to the concentration of bars and clubs that have arisen from the industrial detritus in the last fews years are a handful of new venues currently under construction.
On Third Avenue near Seventh Street there’s Whiskey Tango Foxtrot, which bills itself on its website as a “cocktail emporium,” and boasts of “barrel-aged, batched, seasonal cocktail concoctions built with hand-made vermouths, bitters, and syrups.” It’s setting up on the ground floor of a brand spanking new residential building.
Further up Third Avenue, at the corner of 14th Street, work is well underway at a business that the Department of Buildings permit lists as “Louie’s Bar.” A long bar already stretches across the length of the room, and horse-head ornaments hang above the iron-paned windows. It's directly across from Lowlands, a low-key and cheerful drink spot that just celebrated its first anniversary in April.
Perhaps the most remote development in the works is the nightclub going in at 177 Second Avenue, on the corner at 14th Street. It’s just a block away from the BQE overpass, and you can even see the dark waters of the Canal glimmering in the distance. There’s an EMT training center across the street, which, judging by the bustle still evident behind its doors late on a Monday night, might provide some company to the lonely nightlife outpost.
The publicity-shy owner of the venture refused to give his name, but says that the venue will be called SRB Brooklyn. The initials stand for “Soul, Rhythm & Blues” and the owner says the focus will be an old-school live music club with dancing, featuring a mix of newcomers and original R& B and soul artists from the 1960s and ‘70s. He said that guests will have to reserve tables in advance, and that tickets will be pricey. Think of the nightclub scene in Goodfellas. They’re hoping to open after the summer, but are still awaiting a cabaret and liquor license. (Community Board 6 recommended approval for both permits.)
Although there were a few joints open in the neighborhood before the Bell House set up shop in a former printing press warehouse, it was the performance venue’s arrival in September 2008 that seems to have set the ball rolling. Now a neighborhood staple, the Bell House is known for booking top-shelf indie music and comedy acts, along with a regular roster of popular event series, like its TV Parties and State Fairs.
Craig Hammerman, district manager for Community Board 6, says that the growth of nightlife venues in the area has been relatively conflict free, and credits the neighborly example set by the Bell House.
“The owners of the Bell House are extremely accessible and responsive,” Hammerman said. “I think they set a really good precedent for offering top-billing groups in a popular venue that doesn’t negatively impact on its neighbors. When you have a pioneer who sets a high standard, it’s easy to hold everyone that follows to that standard.”
Hammerman also notes that the low residential density and mixed industrial use of the Gowanus area have been a good fit for the growing nightlife scene. The business hours of the two segments don’t tend to overlap that much.
“I guess you could say there’s a land-use complement rather than a land use conflict.”
At this point in the scene’s evolution, even the other bars seem glad for the company of new venues bringing more foot traffic to the neighborhood.
opened its elegant whiskey-oriented bar on Third Avenue and Sixth Street in February. Just a block away, Whiskey Tango Foxtrot will probably offer the closest thing to competition for bespoke-spirits-focused customers.
“It can only help both of us, right?” said Mickey Guagno, who was tending bar at Halyards on a recent Monday night.
A little further down the block near Carroll Street, Gowanus elder statesman has held its place since 2005, though it looks like it’s been around a lot longer.
"It seems like the nightlife's been picking up," said bartender Jeremy Skehan, who lives upstairs from the bar. "I think it's been good for the neighborhood."
The diverse and effervescently friendly crowd that assembles at Canal bar seems like a good model for a uniquely Gowanus nightlife culture.
“I like that it’s not pretentious,” said Rachel Stein, who had walked a couple of blocks from her apartment to enjoy a late weeknight drink. “I just like that it’s not a thing.”