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‘Siberia’ exile finds home in Brooklyn

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So, Tracy Westmoreland has finally gotten off his high Manhattan horse and opened a bar in Brooklyn — and for this, we’re supposed to be thankful?

Actually, yes. Westmoreland, the man who turned a subway sub-basement into the best bar in the city, has finally brought a bit of that Siberia spirit to his first Brooklyn venture, an oddly named bar called “The Manhattans” on Washington Avenue in Prospect Heights.

Much of what made Siberia a beloved hangout in the early part of this century has been recreated on Washington Avenue. The bar itself — stocked with a few bottles of beer, Pabst Blue Ribbon on tap, and some bottom-shelf booze — is done up in wood paneling straight from a suburban rec room. The front window is covered in newspaper to ward off the casual visitor. There is no decor.

“All the bars in Brooklyn look like movie sets,” Westmoreland said. “This bar is like an episode of ‘The Outer Limits’ that never aired.”

Westmoreland, who also owns Bellevue and Dorothy in Midtown Manhattan, is a whiz at crafting bars out of spaces the could easily be condemned. The result is always a Bukowskian clubhouse, the kind of place where the guy on the stool next to you could be a Pulitzer Prize-winning poet. Or he could be a drunk (most likely, he is both).

At Siberia, of course, there was one other thing that made that bar so great (at least in the minds of all the Manhattan media types who called it a second home): journalists never paid for drinks.

Ever.

Unfortunately, the reporters-drink-free rule is not being followed across the river.

If this is the thanks we get, why did Westmoreland even bother opening The Manhattans in Brooklyn?

“I had to open here,” he said. “All the coolest people at Siberia were from Brooklyn.”

Aw, shucks. Now he’s just playing favorites.

The Manhattans [769 Washington Ave., between Sterling and St Johns places, no phone].

Updated 4:59 pm, April 16, 2009
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