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What brought you to Brooklyn in the first place?
I knew I wanted to open a bar, and I was looking for a neighborhood that would be the right fit for me. A few of my coworkers at the time lived in the area. When I signed the lease, I told friends the bar was in East Williamsburg, and some of them would say, “No, that’s Bushwick.” I actually just found out recently via Google Maps that the miniature golf course in the yard is technically in a Bushwick zip code, and the rest of the bar is in East Williamsburg.
What’s the most inspiring or exciting change you’ve witnessed in Brooklyn over the past few years?
When I started, that neighborhood was kind of the Wild West. I think that’s the nicest way of saying it. Definitely the advent of other establishments, and better restaurant options, has been great. But the area hasn’t lost its old feel—there are still restaurants that have been there for decades. It’s not gentrification moving in and wiping things out —it’s an intermingling.
And the most worrisome?
When they turned McCarren Pool into a pool instead of a music venue. To me, it was so perfect for shows.
What now-closed Brooklyn business do you miss the most?
When I first opened, there was a place called Hope & Union Cafe, and it's been changed into a Mexican restaurant, then another Mexican restaurant, and now I think a French-Mexican fusion place? They made these amazing sandwiches, like one with chorizo and smoked gouda. It was incredible.
Which more recently opened Brooklyn businesses do you think will be considered as part of the next wave of Brooklyn Institutions?
A lot of the new bars that have popped up will stick around. Hopefully, Grand won’t turn into what Bedford has. As it is now, you have options, but it’s still very much neighborhood-centric. You don’t have people coming in from Manhattan saying, “We’re gonna go on a field trip to Grand street!”
Now we’re going to ask you to list a few favorites:
Neighborhood, other than your own: I really like my neighborhood. That's why I live there!
Restaurant:I'm very lucky to be a Brooklynite, and to be able to walk to Brooklyn Star, or walk down to Bedford and go to Fette Sau, or St. Anselm, or go to Grand Morelo's late at night and get tacos and mozzarella sticks. The whole point for me is to be able to to have the options, and I can honestly say there's not one place I could call better than all the rest.
Bar: I live 5 blocks away from the bar. Essentially, I can sort of drink my way home at night and stop by at least 5 different bars. And I do.
Coffee shop:It's a toss up between Gimme! and Variety. One's closer to the bar, and one's closer to where I live. There are definitely days where I hit both.
Park: Cooper Park. I have a small dog, and he loves it.
Under what circumstances, if any, would you consider leaving Brooklyn?
If I win the $350 million Powerball, I’ll hand the bar over to my employees and move to Luxembourg.
Any noticeable differences in your clientele over the years, in terms of their boozing habits, or anything else?
I have noticed that there is a younger crowd coming in, but a lot of the people from when I first opened still come in, too. Also, the shots that are popular tend to change. When I first opened, I started doing a shot that was tequila, then Jameson was big, and now what people want is Fernet. A few years ago, my employees started asking for it, and that's when you know people are gonna want it. Even more recently, it's been Laird Applejack.
What’s the best night you remember having in the bar?
As far as I know, 11 different couples have fallen in love and gotten married because they met as strangers in my bar. One couple even had a reception here after their City Hall ceremony. Any night that people have gotten together is pretty special.
Bushwick Country Club