Blog: Freddy's Bar
As New Yorkers, we understand that is not uncommon for our favorite bars or restaurants to suddenly shutter without warning. We all have a place that we loved which sadly shut down for a reason that we did not understand. For me it was the classic meatpacking district dive “The Village Idiot.” I used to patronize this place constantly and when it closed in 2004, I was disappointed. Places shut down for a myriad of different reasons which include but are certainly not limited to raised rent or a general lack of interest by the public. In the case the famed Freddy’s Bar and Backroom of Prospect Heights Brooklyn, neither of these reasons were the cause.
For decades, Freddy’s Bar was the Brooklyn dive bar to grab a drink and enjoy some excellent live music in their back room performance space. They enjoyed a legendary run, until the city struck a deal with real estate impresserio, Bruce Ratner. The bold deal would see the area between Prospect Heights and Atlantic terminal transformed into a gigantic sports complex. The people who owned the property in the targeted build zone were in for a world of pain. Because of New York’s strict eminent domain laws, they would have no problem forcing people out of their homes and businesses, with no legal recourse at all.
Freddy’s owner’s and its patrons fought tooth and nail to keep their business alive. This was their neighborhood, and their bar, and they would stop at nothing to make sure it stayed that way. The owners took it as far as possible, and even installed chains on the bar for the patrons, and the workers to lock themselves in once the bulldozers started rolling down the streets. They called it “The Chain of Justice.” This was an old school protest competing against new school capitalism and land grabbing. To have dedication to one’s place of business, and watering hole is as American as you can get. After the battle with Ratner and the city ended, sadly Freddy’s ended as well. A huge blowout party was held on its final night of business, leaving fans of the famed bar, and its employees empty. How could the city they love treat a landmark with such disrespect?
But like a Phoenix rising from the ashes, Freddy’s Bar has returned. No, they are not at their original location that they inhabited for nearly a hundred years dating back to the Prohibition era. But they are back and that’s all that matters. Now located on 5th Avenue between 17th and 18th Streets, in a neighborhood called South Slope or Greenwood Heights, Freddy’s has found a new home. While it is true that a new location cannot recreate what was once a well worn in dive, where patrons called a home away from home for so many years, the owners of the new Freddy’s want everyone to know that they have taken the time to carefully plan out the layout of the new location. They have utilized several reclaimed pieces, in order to be as green and forward thinking as possible, which also helps the place to have a unique lived in look. The bar will also feature art installations from local artists, and live performances be it music or comedy in their new back room.
In our ever changing and yuppified city, we need places like Freddy’s to thrive. Even if the original home is no longer here, I am happy that the owners and bartenders picked themselves up by their boot straps and rebuilt something that so many loved. Being original and respected is not easy to come by. Too many of our city’s watering holes and sports bars appear seriously prepackaged and have no soul to them. When I go sit down at a bar for a pint or even a shot, I want to feel like I am at a place that people are about, a place where people will chat you up even if your a stranger, a place where I can call home.
- Alan Smithee