Famous Brooklyn Heights seaman’s bar Montero’s reopens Friday

Montero’s Bar and Grill on Atlantic Avenue in Brooklyn Heights.
Photo by Kevin Duggan

They’re ready to unbatten the hatches!

Storied Brooklyn Heights watering hole Montero’s Bar and Grill will relight its famous vintage neon sign Friday and welcome patrons back indoors after a 15-month pandemic closure, the owners announced Wednesday.

“We are proud to announce that this Friday, May 28th, marks our reopening. Yes, you heard it right. Those neon lights will illuminate Atlantic Avenue once again. We can’t wait to serve you, to see you, and to welcome you,” reads a social media post by the bar from May 26.

The old sailor’s bar between Hicks Street and the Brooklyn-Queens Expressway is widely known for its raucous karaoke nights and many maritime tchotchkes, but had to close up in March 2020 as COVID-19 pandemic wreaked havoc on the city.

Several staff members caught the virus, such as famed karaoke emcee Amethyst Valentino, who was hospitalized at the beginning of the outbreak, according to a Facebook post from the bar at the time. Luckily, everyone is back and healthy again, according to the bar’s second-generation owner.

“Everyone’s fine, ready, and that beacon of hope will be lit up,” Pepe Montero told Brooklyn Paper Thursday afternoon as he prepared to get the inn back in ship-shape with his wife Linda.

Pepe Montero and his wife Linda are excited to reopen.Photo by Kevin Duggan

The gregarious 74-year-old was infected with the virus too, but he said his illness was little more than a head cold.

The Monteros decided against offering outdoor dining due to the dangerous car traffic at the busy corner of Atlantic Avenue, which has seen routine accidents and is right next to an entrance and exit to the BQE, Montero said.

“Do you really want to sit off of that street,” he said. “Every day, there’s always these fender benders.”

The long closure was likely a first for the beloved alehouse, which first opened in 1939 across the street from its current location, where Pepe’s father Joseph, a former seaman, and mother Pilar, the daughter of a ferryman, served visiting sailors and longshoremen 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 BQE, and handed the tavern and the three apartments above over to Pepe in 1997.

The taproom is still lined with maritime ephemera, such as life preservers and portholes fastened to the wall with photos of its founder. A sign bearing the pub’s name — which a sailor brought back from Brazil and is made out of butterfly wings — is mounted above the ancient cash register, which has been with the bar since its early days.

Life preservers and other nautical tchotchkes line the taproom.Photo by Kevin Duggan

Irish author Frank McCourt used to live above the establishment in the 1980s and remembered the famous neon sign in his 2005 memoir “Teacher Man,” as noted by the publication Punch, which chronicled the bar’s final days before the COVID-19 lockdown last year.

Karaoke will return on a first-come-first-serve basis, Montero said, adding that he is excited to finally welcome patrons back.

“You’ve got the good weather in the summer, Memorial Day Weekend,” he said, “We’re looking forward to it.”

Montero’s Bar and Grill [73 Atlantic Ave., between Hicks Street and the BQE in Brooklyn Heights]. Opens May 28.