A Prohibition-era dive bar that got booted to make room for the Atlantic Yards mega-project will toast a rival pub that’s at risk of losing its old-time-y charm as it undergoes a makeover to prep for Barclays Center crowds.
David O’Finn, the owner of the newly relocated Freddy’s Bar, is organizing a “last call” for O’Connor’s, a Fifth Avenue Irish pub in the midst of a major renovation its owner has said will “modernize it a bit.”
He says the July 11 shindig, which starts at 8 pm and goes until closing, will be a chance for regulars and former employees of O’Connor’s to celebrate the bar’s past iteration now that it’s shuttered for rehab work in the months before the Brooklyn Nets play their first home game just blocks away.
“You do a last call,” said O’Finn, who once worked as a bartender at O’Connor’s before finding a gig at Freddy’s. “I was sad that I didn’t get to say goodbye.”
For decades, Freddy’s and O’Connor’s were famously feuding watering holes, O’Finn said. They competed to see which could stay open the latest, and their patrons would square off in an annual softball game in Prospect Park. Sometimes tchotchkes from one bar would mysteriously find their way to the other.
Now, both establishments share a history of being shaken up by the Atlantic Yards development.
After years of protesting the project by boycotting Brooklyn Lager, which will be served at the stadium, building mock guillotine’s for rallies, and wearing large masks showing the faces of development supporters, the folks behind Freddy’s reached an agreement with developer Forest City Ratner to move from their Sixth Avenue building to a new location in the South Slope — one equipped with the same chains beneath the bar designed so pub patrons could lock themselves to their beloved watering hole to prevent its demolition.
When O’Connor’s reopens in September — just in time for the Nets’ first season in Brooklyn — it will have an expanded backroom, a space for parties, and a second-floor restaurant, prompting worries from fans of the old-man-bar that the hangout will abandon its traditional clientele in favor of sports fans.
“The only word I can come up with today is ‘sad,’ ” said Dan Meyers, editor of Here’s Park Slope and an O’Connor’s regular. “It was my favorite bar in the city.”
O’Connor’s owner Michael Maher told The Brooklyn Paper last March that the renovations will make the pub three times larger and one story taller — and bring draft beer to the bar for the first time ever — but they won’t compromise its feel.
“We’re trying to keep the old look, but modernize it a bit,” he said, promising to keep the bar’s old furniture and hours of operation.
Maher could not be reached for comment before deadline. For O’Finn, the changes at O’Connor’s reflect the broader changes in the neighborhood.
“It no longer has that old-school Brooklyn feel. Something has been lost,” he said.