From strip bar to strip mall — Navy Yard pub to become Dunkin’ Donuts, Subway

From strip bar to strip mall — Navy Yard pub to become Dunkin’ Donuts, Subway
File photo by Sean Curran

The scariest bar in Brooklyn is about to become home to two of America’s most ubiquitous corporate chains — a high-speed overhaul in Wallabout that’s skipping typical steps in the process of gentrification.

Subway, Dunkin’ Donuts and two other tenants will replace the bawdy J.J.’s Navy Yard Cocktail Lounge on Flushing Avenue, a century-old bar known as a haunt for local laborers and scantily clad dancers.

“It’s now going to be beautiful and fancy and nice,” said Mehrdad Shariati, who is revamping the rickety dive into glassy storefronts with his son Afshan. “The bar is gone but I’m trying to bring the best retail and restaurants,” said Shariati, whose family bought the building in 2010 for about $2 million.

The landlord said the fast food deal is almost sealed, and also hinted at the possibility of an IHOP or high-end eateries a la “Times Square,” but his broker declined to comment.

Lovers of New York’s gritty history despaired that a Dunkin Donuts could replace such a tawdry but beloved site — without at least first housing squatters, artists and boutiques.

Jeremiah Moss, the man behind the Vanishing New York blog, called the sleazy pub’s turnaround “hyper-gentrification — gentrification on speed.”

“It is so successful, so powerful, it no longer needs the artists and outsiders to do the front-line ‘dirty work’ of opening up neighborhoods and holding ground,” he said.

“Change is moving in just one direction in this city: to suburban chains, high-end shops and restaurants, and condo towers. That’s it.”

The nautical bar opened in the early 1900s at the corner of Washington Avenue, serving the men who built ships during the World Wars and devolving into a living room of lust before closing in 2010.

Before the dive closed, proprietor Steve Frankel contended that its reputation “as a den of sin is wildly exaggerated.”

Developers are increasingly eyeing Wallabout — the stretch from Classon to Carlton Avenues and Flushing and Myrtle Avenues — for high-rises. The Navy Green project, for example, replaces a former naval prison on Flushing Avenue. And further west, the city plans to bulldoze a slew of 19th-century homes for a massive supermarket.

But the gentrification hasn’t bothered all of the locals.

Jean Alcidas, a Navy Yard watchman for 24 years, used to frequent J.J.’s Navy Yard back when it featured adult entertainment, but saw the fast-food joints as a new lunch option in a sequestered area.

“J.J’s had a lot of pretty, half-naked females, and it was fun,” said Alcidas. “But Dunkin Donuts is better for me than a strip club.”

Reach Kate Briquelet at [email protected] or by calling her at (718) 260-2511.

Mehrdad Shariati is turning what used to be the scariest dive bar in Brooklyn into a Dunkin Donuts and Subway.
Community Newspaper Group / Kate Briquelet