Jackie's 5th Amendment in Park Slope will soon close
, because that's what dives do these days. Not "dives" like High Dive, but the dark spots where men congregated unironically to be with drink and not alone; as the old residents die off or get pushed out, and the business-savvy see the opportunity to turn bigger profits from friendlier spaces with Edison bulbs (or with places that aren't bars at all!), these drinking spots are becoming rarer on the streets of Brooklyn, replaced by trendier bars, or grocery stores, coffee shops, Italian restaurants, and basketball stadiums. Here are 10 great dive bars I'm old enough to remember that are no longer serving.
We had already spent years hanging out with old guys in dark bars when we wandered one early evening into this spot, and even we felt uncomfortable; it was the grumbly and unfriendly sort of place that's rapidly disappearing. But it had a nice backyard, surrounded by blue-painted buildings that inspired at least one of our friends to write several poems, like what the Brooklyn Bridge was to Hart Crane. It closed and became No Quarter (not to be confused with South Slope's Quarter), where one member of the reality show Brooklyn 11223
used to bartend.
9. The Wrong Number
Speaking of that show, this Avenue T cocktail lounge, decked out in 70s decor, was the diviest bar in Gravesend until it closed, the sort of place at least one Gothamist commenter thought you might have met the cast of Brooklyn 11223
. It depends where they lived. This rough place, our Gravesend friends tell us, was patronized primarily by the people from avenues T and U.
We once lived down the street from Bill de Blasio for a few months, when this bar stood on the corner. You could tell it was a relic that wouldn't be around much longer, and indeed we were right: after stopping in only a handful of times, chatting with the wacky bartender with a million stories and a bunch of the kind and boozy regulars, the owners retired, and this place became Skylark. Nothing against Skylark; when we asked a bunch of notable Brooklynites once about their favorite bars, a few—Alex Ross Perry, Lauren Belski—told us it was Skylark. Still, it's no Timboo's, for better and worse.
This place has been closed for renovations for, what, years now? With plans to reopen bigger and better, given its proximity to the Barclays Center. But we'll remember it fondly as the dingy North Slope dive in which the stools were torn up, smokeeasy ash trays came out after midnight, and all the beer came in bottles. Elliott Smith hung out here when he lived in Brooklyn and, rumor has it, wrote much of XO
in its booths. But it wasn't the same after Mr. O'Connor sold it.
Many people don't realize the name of Williamsburg's erstwhile coke bar was actually spelled with a K, but that's because who would remember such a pesky detail from a night out here? I never made it out to Kokie's myself, but when I was in college, I knew guys who'd travel all the way from Kensington.
5. Navy Yard Cocktail Lounge
This Flushing Avenue spot was once voted Brooklyn's "scariest bar," but judging by the reports from most people who actually went there, that was just some nu Brooklyn hype: it was just a dive with bars on the windows, a chintzy sign, and, you know, strippers. It used to be the only Clinton Hill bar without a bunch of Pratt kids in it.
4. Snooky's Pub
Paul Auster a few years ago, just chatting about Brooklyn, and we asked him what bars he liked. "There used to be Snooky's! I used to like
to go there
. But that's gone... A lot of old people, you know, the real old-time Park Slope drunks used to hang out in Snooky's. I always had a fondness for that place." Now it's a nice Italian restaurant.
3. Cha Cha's
This spot on the Coney Island Boardwalk never got the kind of attention Ruby's got, maybe because it was a little darker and grimier (or maybe it got that way because it wasn't as tourist-trod?). We had Brooklyn Lagers with a guy from the Brooklyn Brewery here once who said it tasted like the tap lines hadn't been cleaned in decades. The bar was eventually evicted with a few other Coney businesses when the Boardwalk was fancied up a few summers ago; the owners had the idea of opening something inland, but Sandy put an end to that
Yes, this bar survives in name and spirit in a new space on Fifth Avenue in South Slope, but most bar-cultured Brooklynites still mourn the original space and its back room in Prospect Heights, which was forced to close by eminent domain after almost 70 years in business so the Atlantic Yards project could move forward.
1. Luna Park Saloon
The letters had started falling off the sign of this spot in a Neptune Avenue strip mall when we started hanging out there in 2007. During the afternoons, cheap bottled beers would get uncapped while horse races played on the corner televisions and muted Turner Classic Movies played in the middle. The day I found out that this bar had closed was the day I knew Coney Island had changed irrevocably.
Follow Henry Stewart on Twitter @henrycstewart