When the paper came down from its windows last month, rumors swirled about the supposed opening date of The Way Station, a new Washington Avenue bar and live music venue. We wanted to check in with owner Andy Heidel and set the record straight. The short answer: it's officially opening tonight after a soft opening last night.
The Way Station is rooted in a “steampunk” aesthetic, which Heidel describes as “Victorian industrial.” A former publicist for various science fiction and fantasy authors as well as the SyFy Channel, and current bartender at , opening a bar with such a theme was a natural progression for the long-time Prospect Heights resident.
“But it’s not just a bar for people who love steampunk, it’s for the community. We’re not just going to play steampunk music or anything,” he said, adding that he’d love to host jazz, blues and R&B bands, even “old-timey guys playing washboards.”
Inside, the bar isn’t all cogs and copper piping as one might assume. There’s a dark wood floor and warm wallpaper, with rustic and art deco touches like big industrial fans suspended from the ceiling, or a chandelier above the corner booths. The first thing anyone arriving notices about the bar is the bathroom door, fashioned to look like a TARDIS (a time machine from the British television series “Doctor Who”).
When he was laid off from his public relations job almost three years ago, Heidel began to dream up the idea for the bar with friend and business partner Doc Wasabassco. After living in Prospect Heights for 15 years, he knew he wanted to choose a location in the neighborhood.
“Washington is the next up-and-coming avenue,” Heidel said. “I saw what was happening on Fifth Avenue (in Park Slope) and on Vanderbilt Avenue.”
Along with the help of friends, family and “maxing out all of my credit cards,” he said, Heidel managed to raise the start-up cash he needed to make The Way Station a reality and a year and a half ago, signed the lease on Washington Avenue. He said the build out of the bar “didn’t take long,” but because the space is actually designated for retail, changing the official classification to a bar and venue has proved to be a long process.
Besides that, Heidel said, any “little” mistakes on the paperwork “can cost you months.”
“I’ve been saying, ‘I’m going to open in three weeks,’ for the past year," he said.
Luckily for him, the bar was just granted their liquor license as of Wednesday afternoon.
Previously, The Way Station had been able to hold events (private parties, a steampunk-themed Halloween, a New Year’s Eve bash) with a one-day liquor license, as a way to raise extra funds and to invite people in to see a sneak peek of the bar.
Until the bar got the official go-ahead from the state to serve liquor, Heidel and Wasabassco have been fine tuning the space, making sure everything is perfect for opening day.
“We’ve been seeing comments online, like, ‘I looked in and it doesn’t seem steampunk!’” said Heidel, answering that the obvious issue is money and space. “It will be evolving. Every day we’ll have a couple more bottles behind the bar if people come out and support us.”
“But we just want to be a local bar, with a little something for everyone,” he said.
The Way Station, at 683 Washington Ave., at Prospect Place, held a soft opening Wednesday at 8 p.m., with an official opening tonight (Feb, 24). Another event is scheduled for Saturday, March 5 at the bar, with a performance by Architects + Demolition Men.