This week is set to see the soft opening of The Bearded Lady, a new bar at the corner of Washington Avenue and St. Marks Place that hopes to become a low-key spot for locals to grab a brew (and soon, small plates).
The bar's owners held a small private party on Friday night, but are taking the next few days off to hone the drink menu and do some cosmetic work to the space before they open to the public. The tentative opening is slated for either Wednesday or Thursday this week, so check their Facebook page for updates.
The bar was conceived by friends Patrick Britton, Justin Olsen and Mary Gibbons, who have all paid their dues working in the local Brooklyn bar scene (Britton and Olsen at Gowanus Yacht Club and Gibbons at Bar Great Harry). Combined, Britton said the trio has about 30 years experience in hospitality and nightlife.
“The Bearded Lady was always just a joke name for a bar,” said Britton, until the partners started to get serious about the idea last year. Britton, who has lived on Franklin Avenue for over two years, said he was especially vying for space in Prospect Heights, after seeing so many new businesses open on Washington and Classon avenues, and an influx of a younger generation.
“It’s kind of a risky time (to open a bar),” Britton admitted. “But opening this place is what we all wanted to do.”
Britton, Olsen and Gibbons officially signed the lease for the space at 686 Washington Avenue, which used to house , in February of this year, and since then they have been trying to get their paperwork in order.
Back in April, though fully supported by Community Board 8's Economic Development subcommittee, the bar hit a hurtle when they were denied a recommendation for a liquor license by the full CB8 board with a vote of 12-7 in favor, with 12 abstentions. Since a majority of all voting is needed to pass, it failed.
"The night of the vote we were pretty down in the dumps, but the letter that the Board sent to the (State Liquor Authority) in Albany explained that while we weren't given an approval vote we weren't rejected either," said Britton, so they went ahead with their application to the state, and were approved.
“We took it all in stride,” said Britton of the bureaucratic process.
Hoping to become a “comfortable neighborhood bar,” The Bearded Lady will start out serving bottled beer, and in a few weeks they are set to have eight custom beer taps built.
“Five or six fancy cocktails” will also make their way onto the menu, as created by mixologist Olsen. He plans to name one “Kinky Krowns,” in homage to the former barber that previously occupied the space.
“No $11 cocktails, just good ingredients and an unpretentious atmosphere,” said Britton, who maintained that at the heart of it, The Bearded Lady will be more of a “shot of cheap whiskey and Budweiser” type of bar.
The bar also plans to introduce a small plates menu, mostly “sandwiches and snacks to start,” said Britton. An expanded kitchen is slated to be built in the back, in the space that used to house former studio (they have expanded to a new space at 367 St. Marks Avenue).
Inside, the decor is mostly cool greens and grays with modern glass lamps above the bar, retro orange barstools and black leather lounges. The large windows that line the exposed brick walls will be opened during nice weather.
When Patch stopped by the bar on Thursday afternoon, Britton and a crew of construction workers were scrambling to finish the work on time.
"It's been a weird year getting this open," said Britton. "We've definitely got butterflies."