Forget about crocuses, ice cream cones or overpriced sundresses, nothing screams “spring in Brooklyn” like sipping a $1 Pabst Blue Ribbon in a former parking lot.
And so last Thursday, when rumors began to fly that my favorite ex-lot, the Gowanus Yacht Club on the corner of Smith and President streets, “could open” over the weekend, I was ecstatic, happy like a child hearing the sweet wail of a Mr. Softee truck after six months of nothing but ambulance sirens and car honks.
By afternoon, I was daydreaming about sitting elbow-to-can with strangers and swilling beer on a street corner more crowded than a 4 train at rush hour. By evening, I was willing to ignore the below-freezing wind chill in pursuit of a cheap hot dog and some sun-lit booze.
Then I went there.
It seems I was one of few prepared to drink cold beer in woolen mittens.
The Gowanus Yacht Club was still a cluttered lot, ketchup-stained tables and chairs stacked behind a wrought iron gate, the only sign of life a wooden mailbox with a sign asking wannabe bartenders to drop in proof of employability.
A woman at the bagel shop next door said that the owners hadn’t been in for the seasonal clean-up of the outdoor bar.
“Maybe next week,” she said. “If it ever gets nice.”
Down the block at a rival watering hole, Trout, the outdoor bar was empty as a school bus on a snow day. A few friends of the bartender clustered at one table downing pints — Heineken is new on tap this year.
The bartender said that this Thursday, he would try to get customers who weren’t his pals — but that will only happen “if the weather improves,” he said.
Success is not just about the weather, of course. As it turns out, the season of $1 Pabst on the patio is also the season of noise complaints.
And outdoor bars — the racket-making ice cream trucks of the over-age set — are frequent targets.
“There are people in the [neighborhood] who complain that ambient noise from the bars is running their lives,” said Alan Harding, co-owner of Gowanus Yacht Club, Pacifico and Patois.
Last summer, one Carroll Gardens resident got so incensed about the party sounds that he took a gardening hose to backyard barflies at Brooklyn Social, one of Smith Street’s most popular bars.
“It was one neighbor who didn’t like us using our backyard space and wanted to see us closed,” said Matt Dawson, a co-owner.
At first, the city dismissed the neighbor’s complaints about noise, but then the man found an obscure zoning regulation that barred outdoor bar uses on the site. This time, the Department of Buildings enforced the code.
Harding worries about a similar fate befalling his summertime bar, arguably the epicenter of outdoor drinking on the strip.
“Every day we are open we worry that some one will knock on the door and tell us we are violating some rule that we don’t even know about,” he said.
“But the truth is, a lot of neighbors hate the place and a lot of them love the place,” he said. “And a lot of [both groups] drink there.”
“Whaddyagunnado?” he asked me. And that eternal Brooklyn question may be one of the few answers to this neighbor-versus-neighbor conflict.
The other one is even more obvious: Use an indoor voice, even when you are outdoors this weekend — The Yacht Club may be open and I for one don’t want to see anyone get hosed.
The cruise ship queen of Red Hook sailed in early Tuesday morning for the first visit of spring. The behemoth luxury liner, the Queen Mary 2, will be back next week. Expect to see the Bait and Tackle fill as the hard-drinking crew gives local hookers a run for their lager. …
The Department of Transportation is finally rehabbing the bridge over Gowanus at Third Avenue between Third and Sixth streets. How about throwing in a protected bike path? …
Banh mi black out: We missed out on four days of deliciousness this week after health inspectors visited our favorite sandwich shop, Nicky’s Vietnamese Sandwiches, and decided the kitchen was in need of a second sink. Peek at the new fixture under the cash register. …
Moonwalk on Baltic Street: A spring carnival complete with a bouncy castle, a barnyard petting zoo and performances by Lulu the Clown and Astrograss will take place on May 5 from 10 am to 3 pm, thanks to Families First. The epicenter of the carnival will be the corner of Baltic at Court streets.
©2007 Community News Group
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