Heights and dry: Montero’s Bar building is up for sale

Winging it: Montero’s bartender Allan says this sign comes from Brazil and is made out of butterfly wings.
Community News Group / Noah Hurowitz

It is setting sale.

The owner of storied Brooklyn Heights watering hole Montero’s Bar and Grill is looking to sell the Atlantic Avenue building it has anchored for 76 years. And if someone snaps up the property, the borough may have to say bon voyage to one of its last remaining longshoremen’s bars, said a longtime employee.

“This may not be the oldest bar in Brooklyn, but it might be one of the last true seamen’s bars,” said bartender Allan, who refused to give his last name, but said he has been working at Montero’s for a decade and has lived in the neighborhood for over 30 years.

Owner Pepe Montero has teamed up with five neighbors — including his brother Frank — to put seven buildings on the block between Hicks Street and the Brooklyn-Queens Expressway on the market for a combined $56 million, according to the New York Times.

The owner of the building on the corner of Atlantic Avenue and Hicks Street — which another Montero brother, Ramon, sold for $1.9 million in 2013 — does not want to sell, according to the Times. But the other properties comprise almost an entire block of real-estate in one of the most desirable neighborhoods in the borough.

The buildings are close to forthcoming luxury-housing high-rises in Brooklyn Bridge Park and on the former Long Island College Hospital complex, but prospective purchasers will have to keep their ambitions more modest — the block is part of the Brooklyn Heights Historic District, where the maximum building height is 50 feet or around four stories.

Pepe Montero’s parents Joseph, a former seaman, and Pilar, the daughter of a ferryman, first opened the bar in 1939 across the street from its current location, where they served the stevedores and merchant mariners who worked at the nearby waterfront.

They moved the bar across Atlantic Avenue in 1948 when the city razed the original location to build the Brooklyn-Queens Expressway, and handed the tavern and the three apartments above over to Pepe Montero in 1997, according to city records.

Few seamen or dock workers patronize the alehouse these days, but Montero’s remains a museum to its own past and that of Brooklyn’s working waterfront. Life preservers hang from the ceiling and portholes fastened to the wall hold photos of the bar’s founder. A sign bearing the pub’s name — which a sailor brought back from Brazil and is made out of butterfly wings, according to Allan — is mounted above the ancient cash register, which itself has been with the inn since its first days.

And unlike some bars, all the tchotchkes are authentic, according to one long-time customer.

“You can go to any other bar and find this fake stuff that they purchased, but here it’s real,” said Dave, who also refused to give his last name, and said he has lived nearby for 25 years. “This is just another chunk of authentic New York that’s going to be replaced with a Disney store.”

Reach reporter Noah Hurowitz at nhurowitz@cnglocal.com or by calling (718) 260–4505. Follow him on Twitter @noahhurowitz
A lasting legacy: Joseph and Pilar Montero opened Montero's Bar and Grill in 1939, then moved it across the road to its current location in 1948.
Photo courtesy of the Montero family

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