STATE OF THE UNION • Brooklyn Paper


Crowds around Union Hall's bocce court can get a little "rowdy," says co-owner Jim Carden.

This weekend, you could be one of hundreds
of New Yorkers who are fine-tuning their motor skills with a
bocce ball in one hand and a beer in the other, sharpening their
minds by sipping on a martini while reading Voltaire, or just
plain head-banging to some good tunes.

At the newly opened Union Hall in Park Slope, there is something
for every bar-goer, with few exceptions. This hip watering hole
adds a new dimension to the bar scene in Brooklyn, said Michelle
Ferrara, a Union Hall bartender.

"The neighborhood has been waiting for something like this
for a long time," Ferrara told GO Brooklyn. "There
is something here for everyone, and so far the appeal has been
far and wide. We get all kinds of people coming in here. It’s
the most exciting thing I’ve ever been a part of."

Walking into Union Hall, which opened last month, is an experience
on its own. As soon as you enter, there is a bar on the right
side, with a dark mahogany canopy, 12 beers on tap and a menu
featuring comfort food prepared in the downstairs kitchen.

There is a sprawling space around the bar, with numerous seating
areas, an outdoor patio, a library nook with floor-to-ceiling
bookcases, and don’t forget the two indoor, 38-foot-long, dirt-surfaced
bocce courts.

Owner Jim Carden said that bocce was his bar game of choice,
instead of the more traditional pool tables and dartboards, because
it’s a sport that is fun, easy to learn, and anyone can play.

"Now, it’s entirely possible for anyone to come out to the
bar and plan for a night’s worth of activities, something that
other bars don’t provide," said Carden, who also owns Floyd,
NY in Brooklyn Heights. "You can have a quiet time at the
library study area, or get the competitive juices flowing at
the bocce courts, which have been known to get a little rowdy.
It’s all about having fun, though."

Carden, who opened Union Hall on July 9 with partners Andy Templer
and Sean Neill, said that perhaps the biggest draw to his bar
is the performance venue downstairs. Downstairs at Union Hall
has standing room for over 100 people, all of whom have a great
view of the 10-by-12-foot stage.

At Union Hall’s first round of shows held the weekend of Aug.
4, there were packed houses downstairs every night, with the
biggest draw being the Los Angeles-area indie rock band Silversun
Pickups who played a sold-out show on Aug. 7, said Carden.

There is at least one indie rock performance every weekend, with
a cover charge ranging from $7 to $12. On Aug. 19, Levy will
perform, and the Inlets and Sufjan Stevens’ guitarist Casey Dienel
will play a set on Tuesday, Aug. 22. On Aug. 24, Dave Derby will
rock out, followed by Rosewood Thieves playing with Sonny Oaks
on Aug. 25.

In addition to the music, there are other special performances
at the Union Hall, ranging from the expected (comedy) to wildly
unusual: Science Night.

Every other Sunday there is a comedy night with Eugene Merman
and Friends. Aug. 20 will feature Boerum Hill comedian Michael
Showalter, who has appeared on Comedy Central, written, directed
and starred in 2005’s "The Baxter," and co-wrote the
2000 movie "Wet Hot American Summer." (Comedy nights
have a $7 cover charge.)

The first Wednesday of every month, beginning Sept. 6, will be
Union Hall’s Science Night, which will feature local scientists
demonstrating their experiments and other quirky inventions and
explaining what they mean to the public, said Ferrara.

With all of the younger people moving into the Park Slope neighborhood,
the eclectic and exciting aspects of Union Hall are sure to attract
many from the area and Ferrara said it has already proven to
be popular among locals and those outside of the neighborhood.

"I was working here one Wednesday night, shortly after we
opened, and I was really shocked at the amount of people who
were there until really late on a night in the middle of the
week," said Ferrara. "I was like, ’What do these people
do?’ I think it has a lot to do with the fact that we have covered
all our bases, and people are just having a good time taking
it all in all night long."


Union Hall is located at 702 Union St.
at Fifth Avenue in Park Slope. The performance venue, Downstairs
at Union Hall, will present Levy on Aug. 19 at 8 pm, comedian
Eugene Merman and Friends featuring Michael Showalter on Aug.
20 at 8 pm, Inlets and Casey Dienel on Aug. 22 at 7 pm, Dave
Derby on Aug. 24 at 7 pm, Rosewood Thieves and Sonny Oaks on
Aug. 25 at 8 pm. Cover charges range from $7 to $12. Science
Night is Sept. 6. For more information, call (718) 638-4400 or
visit Union Hall’s Web site at www.unionhallny.com.

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