Hmmm... The Brazen Head... cask-conditioned, hand pumped ales... free food... name alluding to Friar Bacon and Friar Bungay (and reminiscent of one of my favorite books)... what's not to like? Indeed, what's not to like?
Three years ago, at about the same time the lovely Aunt Snow was kicking off her one-woman effort to bring beauty to the blogosphere, my friend Andy told me that his bar, Park Slope's Union Hall, was in danger of losing its liquor license. The land-use/landmarks committee of Brooklyn's Community Board 6 recommended that the NY State Liquor Authority not renew Union Hall's license. Community Board member Lou Sones (owner of the aforementioned Brazen Head), a guy with a clear-cut conflict of interest , and a couple of lunatic residents (one of whom called 911 to make a false report of dangerous overcrowding) were trying to shut down a business which employs forty persons (a business which occupies a formerly vacant store). Here's the video footage documenting the false alarm:
I had been going to the monthly Secret Science Club lectures since 2006, and had come to know Andy very well. Andy, to be concise, is a prince. I mean, he's a genuinely nice person (he has a positive quality of niceness, not merely an absence of meanness), and a hard-working, stand-up guy. When he told me about his problem with the Community Board, I said to myself, "Nobody fucks with a Friend of the Bastard, and expects the Bastard to sit on the sidelines." I wrote a letter to the Community Board, urging them to reconsider the decision of the land-use/landmarks committee:
7 March 2008
REDACTED, District Manager
REDACTED, Assistant District Manager
Community Board 6
250 Baltic Street
Brooklyn, NY 11201
Re: Union Hall, Park Slope
I am writing to urge you to support Andy and Jim of Union Hall in their efforts to renew their liquor license. Union Hall is not merely a bar- Andy and Jim run their establishment in the true tradition of the Public House. In a city in which most residents live in apartments with limited space, Union Hall functions as an additional living room for a diverse clientele. With its book-lined walls, bocce courts, and homey atmosphere, it’s the best living room in the borough. Even more significantly, it’s a living room that has hosted Nobel Prize winners, three of whom have been featured speakers at the monthly Secret Science Club lecture series.
The Park Slope community is known for being dynamic and diverse. Union Hall reflects this dynamism and diversity. Artists, professionals, graduate students, tradespeople, all rub elbows at Union Hall, or engage in friendly competition in bocce matches and spelling bees. Andy and Jim, and their dedicated security and bar staff make it all possible, and it would be a great loss to Brooklyn if their vision, dedication, and hard work should all come to naught.
Very truly yours,
Big Bad Bald Bastard
I was visiting my mom in Virginia when the full community board meeting when the committee's decision was reversed and the board recommended that the license be renewed, but I was gratified to hear that the good guys won.
I live in the "tavern district" of the City of Yonkers, I can walk to a dozen bars in the space of five minutes. I look around my neighborhood and I realize that the bars saved the commercial strip. The area would have become a post-industrial moonscape if the bars hadn't opened in profusion. Would Park Slope have been better off with a vacant storefront rather than a well-run, eclectic bar?
Three years later, Union Hall is going strong, and Andy and Jim's Bell House, has transformed a vacant post-industrial space in a post-industrial landscape into a huge, attractive venue hosting a variety of activities and employing even more local residents. Happily, they don't have cranky, kooky neighbors to deal with at their new venue.
I don't have the figures, but they probably employ a hundred people at the three bars they own, and the panoply of events they host is quite varied. It would have been a goddamn crime if they had lost their liquor license, and had been unable to expand. After the whole kerfuffle was over, I told Andy, "You know you're living a righteous life when all of your enemies are weasels."
Brazen Head? They could be giving out free cask-conditioned ale by the gallon, but there's no way I'll set foot in a bar owned by a rat-fucking weasel. As much as I love beer, I hate evil mothers.