Angry Wade’s bar closes after 20 years

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Angry Wade’s in Cobble Hill has closed for good.
Photo by Ben Verde

Storied Cobble Hill bar Angry Wade’s permanently closed its doors on Oct. 31 after two decades of service because of COVID-19 woes, its owner told Brooklyn Paper.

I had a very high lease, and I’m kind of hedging on the sour side of this winter,” Wade Hagenbart said, adding that the winter would have likely slowed business down even more. I don’t think it’s going to get better, I think it’s going to get worse.”

Hagenbart said that he’s fought to keep the corner bar on Butler and Smith streets alive since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic in March. The company received a federal loan from the Payment Protection Program, began serving takeout, and bended to the city and state’s ever-changing rules for outdoor dining — but the changes weren’t enough to keep the bar profitable, he said. 

“We were just breaking even, and we had a small payroll. It’s one of those things of just breaking even, just getting by,” said Hagenbart. The landlord’s been really good; I’ve known him now for 20 years or so. I told him, ‘I can’t pay you rent, and you want rent, so I’m going to give you the keys back.”

The state’s strict COVID-19 regulations — which mandate that bars serve food and seat customers, among other rules — also cost the bar a fortune, Hagenbart said. Angry Wade’s was written up for three separate infractions, including one that requires the watering hole to fork over $1,500 because two people were standing, rather than sitting, beside one of the outdoor tables. 

“If I had any profit, it’s going to the state,” Hagenbart said, laughing. “The state needs money too, you know.” 

The bar also had to shell out $1,000 after the city’s Department of Transportation changed its rules for outdoor seating, he said. 

“It cost another thousand in lumber to make what they want,” he said. 

Angry Wade’s closure comes 21 years after Hagenbart and his now ex-wife, Melissa Murphy, opened the bar in 1999. The couple, who had just opened a bakery called Sweet Melissa one block down, named the bar Angry Wade’s to play off the name Sweet Melissa, which Hagenbart said was not his idea.

Sweet Melissa closed its Cobble Hill location in 2012, but Hagenbart went on to open a few other Brooklyn eateries, including a taco restaurant called Gueros and a Park Slope bar called the Dram Shop.

Hagenbart closed Gueros’ Park Slope location on Fourth Avenue earlier this year because of the COVID-19 pandemic, but its Crown Heights outpost is going strong.

“We have one location in Crown Heights that’s staying open and doing great,” he said. “We’re looking to expand that, so we’re looking for spaces now.” 

The Dram Shop is also staying alive, thanks in part to the bar’s outdoor space and its TVs, pinball, and a pool table — which make the space perfect for private parties, Hagenbart said. 

Hagenbart added that he would consider re-opening Angry Wade’s if the landlord of Smith Street building couldn’t find another tenant and lowered the rent after the COVID-19 crisis — although maybe under a different name.

“I had the idea AW Tavern,” he said.

Regardless of whether the bar can reopen, he thanked his customers and the Cobble Hill community for 21 years of memories. 

It’s been a great time. It’s like family,” he said. “It’s really a special place.”