There’s something about walking into a
bar and feeling like you own it.
Not in that "Cheers" kind of way where everyone yells,
"Norm!" (which would more likely cause me to look over
my shoulder as nobody has ever called me that). No, it’s a vibe
you get from the surroundings, the music and most importantly
the bartenders. In a bar you "own" they seem genuinely
happy to see you – not just your cash.
You feel as comfortable as if you were home. So does the guy
sitting next to you. He owns the place, too.
That’s the vibe at Magnetic Field, a bar on Atlantic Avenue between
Henry and Hicks streets in Brooklyn Heights, which opened last
The relatively small space packs a lot of punch. The dark-wood
bar can seat about a dozen people, and then against the opposite
wall, in a slightly elevated section are vintage red-vinyl booths.
There are 12 beers on tap and the lines are cleaned regularly
so the beer always tastes incredibly fresh.
The bar also features a couple of specialty drinks, like the
locally inspired Promenade: Van Gogh pineapple vodka, cranberry
juice and a splash of soda.
In the back is a pool table – a rarity these days – and despite
what you may have read elsewhere, the red felt was not on it
when original Magnetic Field partners Stephen Freeman and William
and Cena Crane took over the joint.
For years, the spot, on the north side of Atlantic Avenue, was
the gay bar Friends Tavern. The pool table from Friends is still
there, but despite what one reviewer recently wrote, Freeman
installed the red felt on the table himself. (He also kept –
but moved – the glittery disco ball hanging over the pool table.)
And he wants you to know that.
That’s because Freeman and the Cranes took a very hands-on approach
in creating their bar, which they call "Brooklyn’s own rock
’n’ roll cocktail lounge," but are just as likely to label
the Heights’ great neighborhood bar. (The name comes from one
of the Cranes’ favorite bands, The Magnetic Fields.)
It’s both, thanks in large part to their fourth partner, Lee
Greenfeld, who came aboard about six months after the bar opened
and handles all the bookings.
Yes, bookings! The bar hosts indie bands just about every Saturday
(the pool table area becomes the stage) and DJs Thursday through
Saturday. And that’s what Freeman, the Cranes and Greenfeld hope
will make Magnetic Field, which already draws great crowds on
Friday and Saturday nights, a top venue.
Greenfeld, a graphic designer, has worked for a couple of indie
record labels and also publishes Sound Views, and indie music
and culture magazine. Through his work with the magazine and
Go Cart Records, he began booking bands.
"We book everything from alt-country to punk to new wave
and even hip-hop," Greenfeld said, admitting that the bar
does lean toward punk and garage-style bands.
The jukebox, which bares a sign reading, "Free for now"
(it has been since Magnetic Field opened), reflects that ’60s-garage-punk
sensibility with everyone from the Dead Kennedys to the Kinks
to The The to Elvis Presley. And they keep it fresh, willfully
accepting records from patrons and mixing in from the owners’
and staff’s own collections.
Besides the live acts, Greenfeld also books the DJs. Most of
them appear once a month, except for DJ Blackulove, who "spins
you the sexy" every other Friday night. Blackulove also
hosts the Monday night "open turntables night." Anyone
with the desire can just show up at 9 pm with their LPs or CDs
and DJ Blackulove will give them 30 minutes to show their stuff.
The DJs run the gamut from ’60s soul and garage to hip-hop to
[Check GO’s Brooklyn
Nightlife listings for weekly DJ and band updates.]
But even if Magnetic Field becomes the venue in Brooklyn on Friday
and Saturday nights, Sundays will always be my favorite. "Made
in Brooklyn Sundays" feature $2 Brooklyn Lager drafts until
8 pm (after which they’re just $3 ’til closing) and Cyclones
games on the two TVs. And Freeman, who usually man’s the bar
until about 8 pm on Sundays, agrees.
"I can slow down," he says. "If someone’s here
on a Sunday afternoon and wants to learn how to pour a draft,
I can get him behind the bar and let him learn, pour a pint of
Guinness." He also makes a mean Bloody Mary.
A sales rep for a software company, Freeman was supposed to meet
a friend and business associate for a meeting on the 82nd floor
of one of the Twin Towers on Sept. 11, 2001. Too much drinking
the night before saved his life as he had a hangover that morning
and never made it to the meeting. His friend never made it out.
The impact of that day, combined with his bosses pushing him
to exploit the event to increase sales made Freeman rethink his
career choice. His birthday was Sept. 12. He quit on the 13th.
Freeman knew Will and Cena Crane from when they all worked for
the same dot-com, which like most, went belly-up. They decided
to find a venue in Brooklyn – the four partners live in Brooklyn
Heights, Park Slope and Carroll Gardens – to open a bar and nightspot.
"It took like two weeks to find the place," said Freeman.
"I wanted a neighborhood bar and Will, who’s a musician,
wanted a music place."
Kate, who bartends Sunday nights, just left for a three-week
vacation. When she returns, ask her to make you one of her margaritas.
She makes a great one, but more important, she’ll make you feel
like you own the joint.
Magnetic Field, 97 Atlantic Ave. at
Hicks Street in Brooklyn Heights, is open seven days a week,
Monday-Wednesday, 5 pm-4 am, and Thursday through Sunday, 3 pm-4
am. The average non-well drink is $5.50; tap beer is $4. American
Express, MasterCard and Visa accepted. (718) 854-0069.