CAPTAIN HOOK

New club owners pump up volume in distant Red Hook

for The Brooklyn Paper

Rumors and myths about Red Hook abound. Some say that in the near future, cruise ships will dock there instead of in Manhattan. There’s a buzz that the defunct Van Brunt subway line will be restored to power, the electric trolley will return, and Ikea and Fairway will be moving in.

And then there’s the old notion that Red Hook is remote, desolate and difficult to find.

"People are shocked when they come here for the first time," says Jeff Goldin, 35, co-owner and manager of the new Red Hook nightclub The Hook. "It’s so close."

The Hook is the neighborhood’s newest venue, a cavernous space that offers unobstructed views of bands, a stellar new sound system, stadium seating and a sprawling back patio, not to mention unlimited free parking.

A 15-minute walk from the Carroll Street stop on the F train, pedestrians voyage through the romantic streets of Carroll Gardens, duck under the BQE on a footbridge atop Hamilton Avenue and follow hand-painted signs that direct them to the club. Once you cross over into Red Hook, it’s not hard to find. Surrounded by music studios, storage facilities and a custom glass factory, The Hook stands out.

"We can play music as loud as we want, with the doors open, and we won’t have to worry about neighbors complaining," says Goldin.

Red Hook has undergone extensive renovation since the dot-com boom, and a population explosion has brought new life to what was in the past a troubled neighborhood.

"Everything around here is being converted into residential," says Goldin. But he notes the dearth of local venues that cater to new and longtime residents alike.

"There’s nothing else even remotely like this in Red Hook," he says about the club, which opened in mid-August.

Where The Hook differs from other new bars and restaurants popping up is in the club’s commitment to offering the best live music New York City has to offer, five nights a week, Wednesdays through Sundays. One night is dedicated to showcasing undiscovered bands, and with no cover charge.

"We’ll try to get at least four or five bands on the stage in one night," says Goldin, "just to give people a chance to play a New York City venue." On Tuesdays they host a variety show called the Savage Breast, featuring poetry, film and comedy. And already they’ve proven a commitment to musical variety, hosting local bands like Antibalas, as well as international sensations the Toasters and Groove Collective. They present bands that play everything from ska to Afrobeat to rock to samba.

"We’re open to anything," says Goldin.

The space lends itself to these varied activities, since you can see the stage from almost any angle in the room. And for those who are slightly wary of nightclub noise, Goldin ensures that the 14-foot ceilings and 3,200 square feet of space offer something for everyone.

"When you crank up the sound system, you can still sit at the bar and talk," he says.

Goldin expects The Hook won’t just be a big hit among the Brooklyn set. He plans to compete with venerable foes across the river like Bowery Ballroom and Irving Plaza. The five partners have experience in everything from stage managing television shows to running bars (two of the partners own Atlantic Avenue’s Last Exit bar), and they feel certain The Hook will thrive.

"There’s something wrong with every other venue in New York," he says. "It costs nine bucks for a drink, or there’s a huge cover, you can’t see, or it stinks." He points out that since the club was incorporated after the smoking ban passed, The Hook doesn’t suffer from the lingering scent of stale smoke.

"But we have a 1,600-square-foot, smoker-friendly backyard," he adds.

The building briefly housed the upscale jazz club Red Hook Blue, which opened Sept. 21, 2001, just in time for the closing of the Battery Tunnel and the general post-9-11 shock. But since then, the neighborhood, along with the rest of New York, has recuperated.

The Hook caters to a more diverse crowd than Red Hook Blue, inviting neo-Brooklynites as well as those visiting from across bridges and tunnels. They’ve installed glowing glass bricks and painted the brick walls purple, in an eclectic-crypt decor that’s half grandma, half Dracula.

Just like the rest of the neighborhood, The Hook’s transformation is not yet complete. Future plans include finishing the vast basement, and creating a lounge that will serve light food. The back patio will eventually become a full outdoor bar. The only strike against the club is its location. There is, of course, the F train; it’s just that you have to walk a bit from it. You could also hop on the B61 bus, which runs along Van Brunt and Columbia streets from Downtown Brooklyn, DUMBO and Williamsburg.

But Goldin says it’s just a matter of time before the rumors about Red Hook are quashed, and the truth about the neighborhood comes out.

 

The Hook is located at 18 Commerce St. between Richards and Columbia streets in Red Hook. For more information about upcoming bands, DJs and MCs, call (718) 797-3007 or visit the Web site at www.thehookmusic.com.


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