Gripping tale at robbed bar

The man with a teardrop tattoo has been nabbed — and a reign of terror at Red Hook bars has, cops believe, been ended thanks to the arrest of 26-year-old Luis Rodriguez on Monday.

But the collar never would have happened without the quick-thinking and bravery of a friend of mine, who bartends at the Bait and Tackle bar.

Here’s how it all went down — according to cops and my friend, the star witness.

On Monday, around the 3 am closing time at the Bait and Tackle, the man police identified as Rodriguez and a woman entered and ordered shots of tequila and lime.

Regulars — and there were a handful around the U-shaped bar with the taxidermy horse head — were uneasy, but it took a second before they realized why: Rodriguez bore an uncanny resemblance to the “Wanted” poster hanging near the bar — a warning sign that referred to Rodriguez’s alleged past crimes: a Sept. 23 robbery at the Bait and Tackle and a Sept. 30 robbery of nearby Moonshine.

Could it be that he had returned to the scene of the first robbery to brazenly order tequila? And with a date, no less?

My friend the bartender, usually a loudmouth, wasn’t taking any chances: he quietly told a friend to go outside and call the police on his cellphone.

But while the man was outside calling police, Rodriguez got up from the bar, leaving a $2 tip next to his empty shot glass.

The bar’s customers breathed hard as Rodriguez made for the door, wondering if he was carrying a weapon again, like the time he allegedly robbed this very same drinking establishment.

Indeed, he looked like he was carrying something under his shirt, my friend said.

In that instant, he looked around and wondered what he could grab to defend himself, or anyone else, in case he needed to.

With Rodriguez outside, my friend and a few customers pulled down the bar’s metal gate and called cops again. They wanted to keep the bar safe from violence they suspected could break out at any moment.

Police finally caught Rodriguez a short while later, hiding under a parked car on desolate Imlay Street a block from the Van Brunt Street watering hole. Warning barks from the guard dogs that watch over the street’s vacant warehouses had helped lead the police to the suspect.

A second suspect in the armed robberies remains at large, police said.

The police, however, aren’t the only people who can fight crime in Red Hook. The man who robbed the Bait and Tackle and Moonshine did so because he knew the neighborhood’s sparsely populated, dark streets could shield him. If we want crime to subside on our streets, the number of people here must grow. Of course, that’s a Catch-22 in a neighborhood that’s constantly trying to bridge its gritty past and glitzy future.

Which vision will win out? The jury — ours and Rodriguez’s — is still out.

Ariella Cohen is a freelance writer.

The Kitchen Sink

After 10 years of waiting, PS 261 on Pacific Street has a new playground that is open for romping around. It’s between Smith and Hoyt streets. …

Our pals at South Brooklyn Legal Services have been defending victims of housing discrimination for years — and now they’ve won a federal grant that’ll keep them fighting on. Congrats to the gang. …

The Gowanus Chorale is looking for a few good voices. Stop by their rehearsal at 7:30 pm on Tuesday and sing your heart out at the Gowanus Community Center (420 Baltic St., between Hoyt and Bond streets). …

Gowanus and “fresh produce” were three words we never thought would attract a crowd, but last Sunday’s Gowanus Harvest Festival on Carroll Street at the bank of the fetid, gonorrhea-laced canal was a hit.