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Brooklyn heat! Fireplaces are a warming trend in local bars

for The Brooklyn Paper

As the mercury drops faster than the Dow, a young person’s fancy turns to cozying up in front of a roaring fire. But since setting one’s futon ablaze isn’t a realistic (or legal) option, Brooklynites are seeking out bars and cafes with fireplaces to thaw themselves by. It’s not just warmth that these comfy quarters offer, but a casual atmosphere that’s ideal for intimate conversations or the kind of hearth-induced canoodling that you just don’t see in the summer.

Local bar owners know a fireplace is good for business, especially with the economy keeping people in Park Slope rather than on the ski slope or in Bay Ridge rather than Montego Bay.

“If you have the room, it’s a great incentive,” said Martine Lafound, the chef and co-owner of Sheep Station, the Australian gastropub on Fourth Avenue in Park Slope that opened in 2006. “It definitely gets people to come out on a cold night.” (And Lafound should know; she’s from Quebec.)

Indeed, at the Pearl Room in Bay Ridge, the table by the hearth is “the first one to go every night,” said chef Anthony Rinaldi.

But it’s not just a good business decision; nothing creates the right mood like a pile of burning lumber.

At the Black Mountain Wine House, at the corner of Hoyt and Union streets in Carroll Gardens, the fireplace is an essential part of the eclectic country farmhouse décor (as it was when the 1898 building was constructed).

“The restaurant is usually candle-lit, so the fireplace adds to that romantic feeling,” said manager Tyler Maganvini. “We actually do better in the winter than in summer.”

Stymied in the past, cocktail connoisseur Julie Reiner was finally able to install a fireplace when she opened Clover Club on Smith Street this June.

“It’s tricky — you’ve got to have the right ventilation and the right spot for it,” she said. “The stars just aligned this time. The atmosphere that it adds is tremendous.”

Each section of Reiner’s high-end cocktail bar represents a different season: The front, which opens up to the street when the weather is warm, represents summer; the fireplace makes the back room something of a winter hideout.

“When it’s cold, you want to escape and hibernate,” she said. “People call every day just to find out when we’re turning on the fire. Sometimes I’ll sit back there before we open and do some work. It’s very relaxing.” (Calling ahead might not be a bad idea, as the back room is sometimes booked for private functions.)

Of course, if you can’t get a fireside seat at Clover Club, you’ve got plenty of other options along Smith Street: Boat, Angry Wade’s, Camp, Zombie Hut and Robin Du Bois are just some of the other haunts carrying a torch along the street.

“Angry” Wade Hagenbart, who helped establish Smith Street as a drinking and dining destination when he opened in 1999, installed a gas fireplace when he moved in.

“I grew up in Wisconsin, where a lot of bars have fireplaces,” he said. “If I could, I’d add one to any place I owned. It’s not just the warmth and light — it makes a place feel a little like home.”

Camp owner Diane Vasilakos agrees, as do her customers apparently. “The first night we opened, it was raining,” she recalls. “Two girls came in and just took their socks off and set them by the fire to dry.”

OK, so maybe a fireplace doesn’t always create the perfect mood!

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Reader Feedback

Jessa from Ft. Greene says:
Great ideas-- I feel warmer already, and have been looking for some winter-warmer spots for holiday festivities! Thanks!
Dec. 20, 2008, 1:02 pm

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