Stop Time: A Bed-Stuy Bar that Feels like Twin Peaks

Photos by Jane Bruce

Musically speaking, stop-time is a term used to describe the moments when a rhythm is interrupted by a beat that is not played, interrupting or stopping the normal flow of time. As a technique, it’s most often employed in jazz and the blues.

But stop-time isn’t just about music anymore. Earlier this fall, Bed-Stuy became home to a new jazz bar inside an enviable corner building with frosted grid-windows on Bedford and Halsey—Stop Time. True to its name, the bar feels subtly, interestingly out of sync with the outside world—a good thing here, a respite, an escape.

When I visited last Thursday, the first thing to greet me was the sight of a jazz pianist and guitarist, playing on the bar’s prominent, multiple-tier corner stage. The bar’s floors are covered in black-and-white checks that come to an abrupt end at a deep red back wall. The bar that night was quiet; it’s not a sports bar and it was Game Five of the Division Series between the Mets and the Dodgers. 

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But all of this combined—the live music, the black-and-white floors, the red wall, the quiet, the candlelight casting a sheen of mystery over it all—made me feel like time had really been stopped, as if its very continuum had been disrupted and I’d walked right off Bedford and right into Agent Cooper’s Red Room in Twin Peaks. I don’t think I’m the first to have felt this way.

“Right, the black-and-white floor and red wall help,” said Matt Clark, bartender that night and part owner of the place.

Yes, they did; and as the pianist moved onto a cover of the original Dating Game theme song, its vintage sound reverberating in every corner, I felt strongly that of all possible alternate realities, this was a very charming one in which to have landed.   

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Handsome fixtures and finishes are found throughout. There’s a massive exposed brick wall; gramophone shells that hang above the bar as novel light shades; cloth cocktail napkins that you should not spit your gum into (a fate my friend escaped by a hair); vintage photos of family and jazz legends on the wall; and a copper-topped bar whose base is filled with steel (a welcome mix-up between the contractors and fabricators, said Clark).

“I sculpt things with steel, so it kind of feels right,” he said. “Even if the place burns down, the bar isn’t going anywhere.”

Stop Time is the project of three men who have proven successful at creating spaces in which New Yorkers want to sit and drink. Clark, Vito Dieterle, and Joseph Schwartz have all worked at and/or helmed some of New York’s most famed cocktail institutions, like Milk & Honey and Little Branch, as well as the late, lamented Silver Lining in Tribeca, a basement-level hideout with nightly jazz that also felt—in the best possible way—like it did not quite belong to our present reality.

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Silver Lining’s closing (mainly due to the eternally vexing problem known as “landlord issues”) was unfortunate, but there was no question between Clark and Dieterle, also an accomplished jazz saxophonist, that they would open another place, with a focus on live music, mostly jazz, ably performed by Dieterle’s broad network of talented friends (and, on occasion, Dieterle himself).

Despite the fact that the other bars for which they are known exemplify cocktail culture in New York, Stop Time, for the moment, is beer and wine only. Luckily, the beer list is full of New York and Brooklyn-centric favorites with frequently rotating tap selections. And despite the beer and wine limitations, Clark put a mighty effort into creating a cocktail list that might not have the advantage of the strong stuff, but is still served with the classic accoutrements you’ve grown to know and love–mint sprigs, crushed iced, and that delightful metal straw-spoon (their own sadly not-patented invention, that’s now found everywhere).

My friend was unaware she sat at a non-liquor bar before slurping her first taste of the Old Hickory–a whiskey-free Old Fashioned with dry and sweet Vermouth, and orange and Peychaud’s bitters on the rocks with a lemon twist–but there is only so much that can be achieved when the base-ingredient of the drink you know is not available. As an alternative–Tiki is big now, FYI–go for Clark’s non-rum version of the Dirty Bird, which is just as lip-smacking and tangy-good as you’d want the real version to be.

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Halfway through my visit, the pianist stepped away from her electric organ for a break. Clark turned on an iPod soundtrack of R&B, starting off with Earth, Wind, and Fire. But then, an interloper: “Staying Alive.” Clark jumped, and switched it hastily. “If Vito walked in he’d go ‘Nooooo!'” We’re with you, Vito. This is one jazz-noir alternate reality you do not want to interrupt.

Stop Time: 1223 Bedford Avenue, Bed-Stuy

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