Dec 31, 2014
All The Great Places In Brooklyn That Closed in 2014
2014 was a wretched year for many beloved art and music spaces in Brooklyn, as well as a slew of bars and restaurants that closed due to the ever-mounting pressures of real estate prices. Just this week, Williamsburg’s grimy dive and music venue Trash Bar announced that it was probably going to have to close its doors in March thanks to rising rent. It’s like Theseus’ paradox: If you replace every part of Brooklyn, is it Brooklyn anymore? Below, a round-up of all the closed or closing places we mourned in Brooklyn in 2014.
Galapagos Art Space
Where to go instead: The Knockdown Center in Maspeth, Queens, an enormous restored factory now hosting arts and events.
What it was: A New Orleans beer bar, playing Saints games on Sundays and serving craft beer to the masses in Williamsburg.
Why it closed: Unclear, but we’re guessing rent.
Why it will be missed: d.b.a was a decent, laid-back place to get a pint and watch a game, plus it had an impressive array of whiskeys.
Where to go instead: if you miss the d.b.a. spirit, luckily there’s another outpost of the bar in the East Village which is remaining open (for now, anyway.) For craft beers, we recommend new Crown Heights spot Covenhoven.
What it was: A delicious casual American restaurant, with short ribs that would make you weep and a very solid burger.
Why it closed: The restaurant was evicted after the restaurant ran into financial difficulties in the wake of the death of owner Colin Devlin.
Why it will be missed: From our own Kristin Iversen’s obit of the place: “Dumont was one of those rare places…that was emblematic of both Brooklyn’s past and present. The food was consistently delicious and defied any tendency toward dining trends, the staff was always warm and professional, and the cocktails well-made and thoughtfully conceived. It was one of those places that seemed impervious to the whims of the restaurant industry. And now it’s gone.”
Where to go instead: Try one of these ten great burger spots in Brooklyn.
What it was: The Flatbush Avenue oyster joint by the owners of Franny’s and Bklyn Larder.
Why it closed: Per owners Francine Stephens and Andrew Feinberg, “the business simply hasn’t been profitable enough to keep the doors open.”
Why it will be missed: “What we found at Marco’s though was pretty much the opposite: the food was as strong as at the beginning, quality in everything from the food to the servers (all wonderful!) was higher than ever, and it’s clear from the thoughtful menu changes that both Stephens and Feinberg are still keeping a watchful eye on Marco’s.”
Where to go instead: Luckily, you can always go to their original enterprise, Franny’s. Just expect a solid half hour wait most nights.
The Trash Bar
What it was: Dive bar of ill repute. So the Trash Bar ain’t dead yet, in fact one of Williamsburg’s diviest haunts plans to keep booking bands through March. Though, to be honest it’s been a long, long time since we were heading to this place looking for live music. Let’s be real friends, it’s Trash Bar karaoke that brings us together. The acoustics here are perfect– we’ve never cleared a room faster. Oh, and the cheap shots of well whiskey, and the lumpy, awkward seating situation, the strange smells, muddled layers of graffiti, and the bewildered looking out-of-towners who noticed the gross awning with a funny name and decided to wander in looking for a good time and found it. Those are the things we’ll be missing when this bar closes its doors, and honestly there are very few other places left that are, well, as trashy as this place.
Why it closed:According to the bar’s booker, “rent is going to quadruple”
Why it will be missed: Where are we going to get nasty in Williamsburg now? At the J.Crew around the corner?
Where to go instead: I guess we’ll just go to the Levee to get our cheap drink kicks or Duff’s for a similar Rock n’ Roll vibe. However the bar may be opening in a new location.
What is was: This Greenpoint bar and venue shuttered over the summer, and boy were we sad to see it go. A safe distance from all the Bedford Avenue tourists, Lulu’s was the best free pizza bar in town and one that occasionally hosted decent shows. One of our fondest memories was getting an elbow to the face during last year’s Latino Punk Fest. The drinks were nothing special, and the beer selection just OK, but the bar was great for groups and getting in to trouble. When we heard it was closing and why, we couldn’t shake the feeling that Lulu’s had come to an untimely end.
Why it closed: According to the owner, John McGillion, when he attempted to make his establishment more profitable by converting the place in to a gay bar (something somewhat lacking in the immediate area) the landlord refused, citing a “no gay bar” clause in the lease.
Why it will be missed: Free pizza bars not populated by hoards of tourists are now officially an endangered species.
Where to go instead: The Charleston now charges one whole dollar for a personal pizza, but hey it’s slightly more tolerable than the Alligator Lounge, even if the latter is still charging precisely no dollars for pizza.
What it was: Ah Wreck Room. Your filth was positively unmatched, and in a neighborhood that’s quickly turning into a playground for adult babies who’d like to be thought of as creative types, you were truly keeping it real– a welcoming pile of garbage amongst establishments that have co-opted and sanitized hipness and repainted it with mediocre murals reminiscent of “street art.” You weren’t like the rest, Wreck Room. Your “street art” was real– it was the disgusting bathrooms, the smell of urine that permeated the place well beyond the bounds of the water closet, the illegible scrawl covering every flat surface, the clientele consisting of rock-bottoms, party kids, NYU grads, and punks. Your end was one of the realest indications that Bushwick as we know it is on it’s way out.
Why it closed:According to the owner it was “the same old Bushwick story,” and after almost a decade of being the neighborhood’s home for the debauched, Wreck Room couldn’t afford to keep up with the rent increase.
Why it will be missed: This place somehow eluded bros and thus was a haven for weirdos.
Where to go instead: Happy Fun Hideaway is sometimes home to a similar revelry.
Brooklyn Fire Proof East
What it was: A small bar and cafe filled mostly with artists and others working in the attached studio spaces. We were never really sure how this place stayed in business. They were open from early morning until late night, had what might have been the cheapest brunch in Bushwick, an excellent two-for-one happy hour, and yet Fire Proof always seemed to be rather empty, which was also part of the appeal. Against all odds, Fire Proof held on for eight solid years. The cozy cafe bar could be found down an alley, inside a large industrial building housing Brooklyn Fire Proof Stages and art studios. So unless you were somehow tied to the creative activities happening there or were wise to the drink specials, the place could have easily slipped under your radar. And that’s too bad, because Fire Proof was a truly pleasant place to kick back with a book and sip a couple of beers.
Why it closed: The owner cited fierce competition in the Bushwick bar and restaurant scene. He told Bushwick Daily: “The revenue just wasn’t there.”
Why it will be missed: This bar was never crowded and always chill, not to mention the drink specials were out of this world.
Where to go instead: Old Stanley’s for the laid-back atmosphere and Alphaville for the reasonably-priced food.
Death By Audio
What it was: Only one of the best DIY spaces in Brooklyn, one that consistently offered a space for weird, emerging, scruffy bands to play in Williamsburg for the last seven years.
Why it closed: Fuck. Vice.
Why it will be missed: Williamsburg was once a haven for tiny little independent venues like Death By Audio, places with little insulation and cheap canned beer and bands that were just enough off the radar that you could see them in a packed, sweaty room with the bassist a foot away.
Where to go instead: Bushwick’s excellent arts space and venue Silent Barn is one of the last, best DIY spaces standing. Let’s patronize the hell out of it.
What it was: Another fantastic DIY space, just a couple steps away from Death by Audio and 285 Kent.
Why it closed: The venus announced that it was closing “for not, but not forever,” but they still have to move out of their sweet digs on New Year’s Day. (Do you have New Year’s Eve plans? No? Go see Glasslands’ last ever show.) Suspicions again point to Vice.
Why it will be missed: Another solid venue for bands to play, Glasslands was a great, weird space with many fun nights of noise music and debauchery under its belt.
Where to go instead: Try Baby’s All Right, one of the best music venues to open up in Williamsburg in recent years.
Brooklyn Rod & Gun
What it was: A fishing club-cum-social spot for dadcore enthusiasts, and a haven for bluegrass, folk, jazz, and country music.
Why it closed: Rent may not have spiked—yet—but organizer Chris Raymond saw the writing on the wall. “The jig is up,” he said at the time, “and we’re moving on.”
Why it will be missed: Because it was one of a kind. Brooklyn Rod & Gun was an unpretentious social club whose congregants gathered to honky-tonk, play banjo, drink beer and whiskey, and talk about fishing (which, as history shows us, is really talking about life). Brooklyn Rod & Gun had more than 100 members when it closed, although any ol’ person could stroll in for $10 on any given night.
Where to go instead: Well, it was one of a kind. There’s not really any single place that fills the void Brooklyn Rod & Gun left behind. Thankfully, the group successfully funded a documentary of the last 90 days of the club on Kickstarter.
What it was: A cavernous, comfortable lounge for laptop-toting freelancers.
Why it closed: The longtime hangout was forced out of its space earlier this month. Asking price for the location? To lease: $9,750/month, or $425,000 to buy.
Why it will be missed: Tea Lounge was one of a dwindling number of coffee shops that were more lounge than cafe. The furniture was eclectically ad-hoc: threadbare couches, mismatched chairs and tables, vintage lamps. Plus, stains everywhere, the mark of, uh, any well-loved hangout. At Tea Lounge, you never felt like you were being rushed out; instead, time seemed to slow down, the further you sank into your slouchy chair.
Where to go instead: Root Hill Cafe has free wifi, a strong outlet game, and is also located in Park Slope.
What it was: An old-timey, no-frills coffeeshop with strong coffee and bagels.
Why it closed: Verb opened in 1999—practically an eternity ago, in Williamsburg years. But the reaper of gentrification comes for everyone: rent was raised 70 percent over the summer, forcing the longtime favorite out.
Why it will be missed: There was nothing special about Verb, but in the context of Williamsburg’s condo-ificiation, its grungy, utilitarian atmosphere and friendly vibe attracted a loving crowd. It was less pretentious than you might imagine, too, a remnant of a bygone era for North Brooklyn, before it became a simulacrum of itself.
Where to go instead: Try Daily Press—there’s even one in Williamsburg, although the original location is in the next neighborhood that might become a victim of its own beauty and success—Bed-Stuy.
What it was: A perfectly fine restaurant and bar in Dumbo, with stunning interiors that made it a popular destination for weddings. Also, apparently, a would-be fence for funds owner Jason Stevens procured via grand larceny.
Why it closed: One morning in May, Stevens sent an email to his staff that read “Rebar is bankrupt and closed. Please dispose of your keys and do not enter the premises. Please forward to any staff not included.” He then absconded with $150,000 in wedding deposit checks and $27,000 in cash. A week later, he was hauled into court and charged with one count of grand larceny and four counts of tax evasion. Stevens eventually took a plea deal, in which he was sentenced to 3-to-10 years in prison, and forced to pay $1.8 million in restitution to the couples he stole from.
Why it will be missed: There aren’t too many places to grab an afterwork drink or dinner in Dumbo, and reBar filled that niche admirably.
Where to go instead: Superfine has better food, and Baco is the new best wedding spot in Dumbo.
What it was: The last brick-and-mortar video rental shop in Park Slope, and one of the last in the entire borough.
Why it closed: A little thing called the Internet. Video Gallery had been a neighborhood staple for 15 years, but the increasing availability of on-demand movies and TV has made it nearly impossible for brick-and-mortar rental shops to succeed, especially given the realities of Brooklyn real estate.
Why it will be missed: There’s something to be said for browsing, right? For getting recommendations from a real person instead of an algorithm? Video Gallery was cozy with an extremely friendly staff, led by Kathy Smelyansky, its charming Russian proprietor. You often left with something unexpected.
Where to go instead: Video Free Brooklyn, in Carroll Gardens, is the last best video rental shop in Brooklyn.
Body Actualized Center
What it was: What was this place exactly? Well, it depends on your m.o. really. Did you attend BAC’s yoga classes? Then perhaps you filed the place under “Hippy Dippy community spot.” Well, that was BAC by day. If you hit up Body Actualized at night, you probably thought of the center as the site of wild parties, New Age rituals, tantric sex, and spiritual dosing. Together, the yin and yang of Body Actualized’s existence was aligned with its pursuit of “healthy hedonism.” To those who were peripheral participants in the center’s activities, BAC closed rather suddenly. To others who were involved in the day-to-day operations of the place, it was no surprise that rent eventually climbed to insurmountable heights.
Why it closed: Ye old skyrocketing rent.
Why it will be missed: BAC was one of the more unique spaces anywhere in the city, and was ground zero for the Bushwick New Age, Neo-Hippie scene.
Where to go instead: There’s no one place that could replace Body Actualized, but hit up Catland for mystical education; Daya Yoga for, well, yoga; the Cobra Club for yoga and booze, which may be a disappointing alternative for the array of mind altering substances flowing in and out of BAC, but we’ll take what we can get.
Goodbye Blue Monday
What it was: A bar and venue with DIY attitude, equal parts Grandpa’s garage and punk house vibe. Right off Broadway on the Bushwick/Bed-Stuy border sat this small bar and venue smattered with trinkets and artwork, split up by lofts and littered with threadbare living room furniture probably pulled from basements and Goodwills. By early evening, the place was a respite from the bustle of Broadway. At night, Goodbye Blue Monday turned into a folky, acoustic set sort of venue, and was often packed to the gills. But regular business and fund raising efforts in the form of benefit shows and crowd funding were no match for the thousands of dollars in fines the establishment accrued over the years and a dramatic increase in rent.
Why it closed: Goodbye Blue Monday couldn’t afford to pay off fines or cover rent which the landlord tripled.
Why it will be missed: This place was the antithesis of cookie cutter, it felt lived-in and central to an existing scene, yet welcoming.
Where to go instead: Goodbye Blue Monday’s open mic night continues at the Living Gallery across the street. For drinks, head next door to Lone Wolf.
The White Castle in Williamsburg
What it was: “I keep expecting it to be open,” a friend told me sadly just after the White Castle near her Williamsburg apartment closed. “But it’s just gone. It’s strangely hard to deal with.” The White Castle, which shuttered without notice basically over night, was not your average fast food franchise. Nay, for 22 years this was the locus of late night trouble and slider-fueled hedonism, where teens, longtime locals, and, most recently, newcomer hipsters collided. The lot where the White Castle stands was sold for $6.7 million, and will soon become the site of fancy new condos.
Why it closed: Coo-coo-for-condos developers bought up the land are building guess what? CONDOS!
Why it will be missed: Old reliable, much like the Soviet Union, its disappearance is probably better for everyone’s health in the end but at the time of its collapse no one could imagine what life would be like without it, and its replacement is even more hideous than anyone could have ever predicted.
Where to go instead: Welp, I could recommend some fancy schmacy burger restaurant. But like, that’s not what any of us were looking for when we stumbled late night and pickled into the late White Castle. A decent replacement, though it’s a bit of a hike from the lot formerly known as White Castle, is the Polish White Castle knockoff in Greenpoint, White Burger (and believe me, White Castle knock offs rule– I frequented a certain Black Castle in my youth that dished out some divine lil’ burgers). And don’t worry, you won’t be too removed from the fast food chain experience when you visit White Burger– it’s housed inside a Subway– and the sliders, at $1.50 a pop are just as affordable.
What it was: This DIY venue housed inside a former warehouse on the Williamsburg waterfront held on for longer than anyone could have imagined. 285 Kent and its predecessors– ParisLondonNewYorkWestNile, Bohemian Grove– withstood raids by the NYPD, a booming real estate market, and a relentless live music schedule for nearly a decade. But in the end, the pressure to make the space a legit venue proved to be far too expensive a feat. Kent went out with a bang at the start of this year, hosting a slew of performances by incredible live acts including Fucked Up, Wolf Eyes, and White Lung. Though the venue is long gone and Death By Audio and Glasslands followed in its wake, the DIY mission is still underway.
Why it closed: Pressure to go legit, which the operators couldn’t afford.
Why it will be missed: 285 Kent was host to some incredible shows over the years, and its absence has left a massive hole in the city’s music scene.
Where to go instead: Palisades in Bushwick, though it’s not technically a DIY venue, it has similar vibes, Aviv (Brooklyn’s newest DIY venue), or Bossa Nova Civic Club (owned by John Barclay who once helped run things at 285 Kent).
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