Happy ending: Former brothel becomes a cocktail bar

Welcome to NoHo: The front window of new cocktail bar Barely Disfigured refers to the business that previously occupied the building.
Photo by Jason Speakman

From hot sheets to hot plates!

A posh new cocktail bar and eatery will open tonight in a Carroll Gardens space formerly occupied by a house of ill repute. But the owners of Barely Disfigured say they are not trying to hide its hedonistic past — in fact, it was an inspiration for the space’s reincarnation.

“We didn’t want to shy away from the brothel thing, we thought we should embrace it,” said Jeremy Andre, a Red Hooker who owns the bar with fellow Brooklynites Damien Frey and Regis VanKaster, who also run neighborhood French bistro La Cigogne.

The Smith Street space used to house a “massage parlor” that was exposed as a brothel by the New York Post. That business closed in December, right about the same time Andre and his partners were scouting spots for a new bar, and the sordid locale — which had formerly housed a Baluchis Indian restaurant — offered just what they were looking for.

“We obviously knew what it was before, but the layout was amazing,” he said.

Now the space is a swank saloon, with a long art deco bar in the front room, a lounge area decked out like a French boudoir, and a backyard.

Barely Disfigured, which is named after a French love poem, includes what Andre calls “subtle” references to its former life, including headboards behind the bar, a red light outside, and a canopied bed in the lounge. A sign on the doorway warns those looking for the former occupants, “This is not a brothel. There are no prostitutes at this address” — which is also a nod to a similar placard posted outside the London home of flamboyant artist Sebastien Horsley.

The menu features a selection of small food plates, and cocktails that range in price from $11–$16, all with prostitution-inspired titles, including the Madame Kelly — a vodka drink named after a famous Paris brothel owner — and the Winchester Goose, a bourbon concoction that echoes a 13th century nickname for prostitutes.

Andre said the gimmick is not trying to cash in on women who walk the street, though he does hope it will get people talking about sex work.

“It’s something we should be able to talk about,” he said.

He plans to donate a portion of the bar’s proceeds to Brooklyn’s Sex Workers Project, which provides legal and social services to those involved in sex work.

Barely Disfigured [257 Smith St. between DeGraw and Douglass streets in Carroll Gardens, (718) 858–5646, www.barelydisfigured.com]. Opens Nov. 6 at 5 pm. Open Mon–Fri, 5 pm–1 am; Sat, Sun, 4 pm–2 am.

Reach reporter Lauren Gill at lgill@cnglocal.com or by calling (718) 260–2511. Follow her on Twitter @laurenk_gill

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