Strings Attached: What It Means to Have a Relationship With a Bar

4th Down

My relationship with 4th Down started like most of my relationships have—with a crush on a boy. After a night of drinking and watching a game with a friend at 4th Down, I ended up flirting with the bartender before getting on the G train home alone; the next morning I found a message from him on Facebook.

My relationship with Paul quickly became one that can feel impossible to find—prolonged casual sex, with no strings attached. (No, really—it exists.) Looking back at our text conversations from that first year we knew each other, there isn’t much to see. We didn’t need to make plans; We knew we’d see each other every Sunday for football, and that I’d come back for C’Mon Man and the Monday night game, with a bag packed so I could stay at his place around the corner.

Meanwhile, as Paul and I coasted along, I was building friendships with my fellow regulars. We had college football and the NFL. We had the occasional mid-week night for a High Life and baseball or basketball, or even giant Jenga—maybe just someone to talk to. Any night could be our night. For a while, it felt like we were living in a real life embodiment of Cheers. And then, because this is a Brooklyn story, we found ourselves pushed out of our home at 170 N. 4th Street thanks to higher and higher rents. We said goodbye to that home on Super Bowl Sunday, February 2nd, 2014. I have their government-required choking victim poster hanging in my room, above a framed photo of my childhood dog, Ace.

We knew there’d be a new location, but it was still a painful goodbye. I passed the time watching basketball at home. To satisfy my desire for a cheap beer on the way home from work, I found a home at the bar of Do or Dine. Three-dollar Genessees with a game streaming on my phone became my temporary replacement for High Life and 4th Down’s more than a dozen televisions. Time away from 4th Down also meant time away from Paul. Our relationship fizzled. I saw him occasionally, but the consistency and reliability of what we had at, and because of, 4th Down was gone.

After a long football offseason, and a few rough weekends into the season of waiting for the liquor license to go through, we finally got 4th Down back. Early in November of 2014, the shiny new location was waiting for us at 750 Grand Street, conveniently located just a few blocks from my new Williamsburg apartment. I had my life as a regular back. I didn’t have to tell anyone I was on my way, I just showed up.

It’s now been two years since we left the old bar. The new 4th Down has a whole new pulse. Paul and I are just friends now, though if the place was burning down and I could only save one person, it’d be him. (Even though Geoff, the owner, might be the more practical choice.) The list of my fellow regulars gets longer and longer every week. I see them more often than a lot of my closest friends, and I don’t even know some of their last names. I only have a handful of their phone numbers. But we hug and kiss hello and goodbye. We challenge each other at Pop-a-Shot. They see me cry when my team loses. Like, seriously cry, a lot. My own mother hasn’t seen me cry since the last time I lost a tooth. Football season will end, and some people will trickle away, but the core will remain the same. I’ll go in to watch the Cavs or the Yankees or whatever happens to be on, and Paul or James will be smiling behind the bar, a High Life opened and waiting before I even have time to sit down. I never need to tell them I’m coming, they’re always ready for me. Crushes come and go. 4th Down feels like it’ll be forever.

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