Go West, artsy Brooklynites!
Independent filmmaker Esther Bell is hanging up her film reels to open West Café, a Williamsburg café named in honor of Brooklyn’s vaudevillian icon Mae West.
When it opens in August, the restaurant, located on Union Avenue near Ainslie Street, will serve coffee and pastries, as well as host an even more delicious salon-style discussion series, hosted by many of Belle’s famous friends — accumulated from two decades of working in the city’s film and television industry.
“I’ve got a lot of great stories to tell, but there are so many great stories right here in the neighborhood,” said Belle, who’s made documentaries for Current TV and IFC, produced television episodes for HBO, and directed the feature films “Godass” and “Exist.”
“I feel like having my own place will help me nurture and encourage artists and meet a bunch of people I wouldn’t normally meet other than casting them.”
Bell, a 15-year Williamsburg resident, is naming the bar after another North Brooklyn product — her film hero, Mae West. Some sources claim the sultry silver screen star was born in an apartment over the Berry Street restaurant Teddy’s — and she lived in Greenpoint and Williamsburg before making it big (both in film and in person).
“I’ll have an homage to her that embodies the period she’s from and her spirit,” said Bell. “She’s one of the first artistic pioneers in our neighborhood.”
For the fall, Bell is planning on inviting friends to talk about their own artistic endeavours, including comedian Judah Friedlander, at work on a new book, and TV on the Radio’s Tunde Adebimpe, to discuss his animation and graphic novel projects.
Several short films and discussions are also in the works with artists, musicians, filmmakers, and even farmers who provide the fruit, vegetables and dairy products that will make up the restaurant’s organic-based menu of tapas, pastries, wine and beer.
“The film world gets insular and I want to get people to interact more in the café,” said Bell. “If we can somehow connect people in these different worlds in my space, that’s my dream — and give them a cup of coffee and a glass of beer. A lot of deals can be made over a glass of beer.”
And, just like the iconic actress her space pays homage to, she wants to help everyone make it big.
“I believe in the philosophy that the way we will sustain as a neighborhood is by helping each other,” said Bell. “I’m going to make stars out of everyone coming in my door.”
West Café (Union Avenue near Ainslie Street, no phone) will open in August.