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March 31, 2011

Freddy's will Outlive us All

The L Magazine
by Cara Cannella

Freddy's Bar

627 Fifth Avenue, Park Slope
Rating: 4 out of 5 L's

In the epic 21st-century tale of greed and corruption that is the Atlantic Yards, Freddy's Bar is the displaced underdog protagonist with a heart of gold; Bruce Ratner, the power-mongering authority figure; Borough President Marty Markowitz, his bumbling sidekick; and Freddy's bathroom graffiti, the Greek chorus—a collective voice commenting on the drama.

The iconic Prohibition-era establishment Freddy's Bar and Backroom—hub for artists, thinkers, performers, and generations of cops from a neighboring precinct and voted among Esquire's "Best Bars in America"—closed last April to loud protest from its intensely protective and devoted following. Boxed out of its longtime Prospect Heights home at Sixth Avenue and Dean Street by the Ratner-driven development project centered around an arena for the New Jersey Nets—the "Death Star we know as Atlantic Yards," according to a blog post by Freddy's bartender-turned-co-owner Donald O'Finn—the original bar was a symbol of all that the "Develop Don't Destroy Brooklyn" movement holds dear.

After a nightmarish real estate hunt and relocation process, the bar finally has a new home on a somewhat ragged stretch of Fifth Avenue in South Slope. From the look of things, the three new co-owners—O'Finn and fellow Freddy's bartenders Matt Kuhn and Matt Kimmet—have no plans to leave anytime soon. They brought with them the old wooden booths and tables and original red mahogany bar, enveloped by a string of metal links known as the "Chains of Justice." At old Freddy's, patrons hand-cuffed themselves to the bar to protest eminent domain abuse; at new Freddy's, the chains serve as a reminder of their fight.

Despite all of these growing pains and heavy talk, Freddy's is still just a bar, and a great place to get drunk and knit (as part of their knitting circle) or check out live music and performances including Diva Night (where opera amateurs belt their hearts out to a heckling audience) and the stand-up hour "Ed Sullivan on Acid" with guests including Angry Bob from HBO's Bored to Death.


Posted by eric at March 31, 2011 10:03 AM