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Smartmom raises her glass to new bar — the one across from the school

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What a bunch of teetotalers in Park Slope. That was Smartmom’s reaction upon hearing that there was a brouhaha brewing on Park Slope Parents list-serve because the owner of Bar Toto, a restaurant that serves — gasp — wine and beer, planned to open a new restaurant across the street from PS 107 on Eighth Avenue.

It turned out that only one person was making noise about the restaurant, which most everyone else was eagerly looking forward to.

“I have no children currently enrolled at 107, however nor would I want my children entering and exiting the building with a bar in plain sight,” wrote the man, whose name Smartmom is concealing only because she’s nice.

The response was swift from other parents in the group.

“There are two other bars within one block of 107 — and I never had to shoo away beer-drinking second graders from my stoop,” wrote one pro-Bar Toto person. “I also never noted any raucous adult drinking, especially between the hours of 8:30 am and 3 pm. I have seen many 107 students eating at these establishments with their parents in (gasp!) plain view of the bar!”

Eighth Avenue Mom also posted in favor of the bar.

“I have no problem having my child see people enjoying a glass of wine in a sidewalk cafe,” she wrote. “I see no harm in having my child enter or exit school with a bar ‘in plain sight.’ We live in New York City; there are bars everywhere. More important, I would prefer to welcome a new business rather than take the opposite approach: protesting before it opens on the specious notion that it is inherently bad.

“It’s not as though our neighborhood has been over run with nuisance bars,” she concluded.

About 10 parents added their approval. The original poster, apparently shamed, did not respond publicly again.

Still, the mini-crisis was plenty annoying. Heavens to Betsy! Can you imagine a restaurant that serves wine and beer opening near a school in New York City?

Think of the moral fiber of those poor children. They might see someone drinking a glass of wine. Their tender sensibilities could be destroyed forever.

Smartmom had such a negative reaction to the notion of a “Park Slope Temperance League.” She is leery of the demonization alcohol that has grown out of the culture of 12-step-programs.

Yes, alcoholism is a bad thing; it ravages lives and destroys families. But there is such thing as responsible drinking. A glass of wine with dinner is not “The Lost Weekend.”

So let’s be reasonable. Bar Toto across the street from a school is not a public health issue. A bar/restaurant is not a crack den. For Buddha’s sake, it’s a popular local eatery. A bistro. Think steak frites, paninis, Caesar salad and, yes, wine.

And not every glass of wine leads to a raucous frat party on the street.

The man who got his knickers in a knot about Bar Toto can rest assured. The State Liquor Authority has regulations about these sorts of things. Hard liquor can not be served within 200 feet of a school, but a restaurant can get a beer and wine license.

Smartmom is living proof that it’s not such a big deal for the kids to see the adults drinking. Back in the 1960s and ’70s, Smartmom’s dad would have a glass of Scotch when he got home from the advertising agency (she can still hear the tinkling of ice cubes). Her mother would join him on the white couch in the living room with a mix of gin and orange juice.

It’s not like they got crazy drunk or anything. It just smoothed out some of the sharp edges that accumulated during the day. It was her parents way of getting some R&R before dinner.

On New Year’s Eve 1969, Groovy Grandpa let Smartmom, Diaper Diva and their friend, Best and Oldest, have a sip of champagne as the ’60s turned into the ’70s. Gag. It tasted like medicine.

They were only 11 years old, but Smartmom will never forget what fun it was to taste a grown-up drink on that memorable night — even if it was awful.

So was Smartmom damaged?

Well, everyone knows that she’s damaged. But it’s not because she was surrounded by adults who drank hard liquor, or because she played bartender and sipped champagne on New Year’s Eve.

For one thing, she never developed a drinking problem. She remembers drinking beer at the West End Bar, a defunct jazz club near Columbia, when she was in high school. And there must have been alcohol at high school parties. When she got to college, she used to go to a happy hour at a Holiday Inn and drink White Russians with her best friend. But Smartmom liked the free shrimp and the mozzarella sticks more than the creamy drink.

Yes, Smartmom is the first to admit that she likes her Chardonnay and her weekly Margaritas with her writer’s group at Le Taq. Smartmom likes to be light-headed and loose; she likes to feel a little buzz every now and then.

And Teen Spirit and the Oh So Feisty One have seen Smartmom and Hepcat finish off a bottle of wine at dinner, and have seen Hepcat’s single malt Scotch bottles like Balvenie, Oban, Lagavulin and Laphroaig.

Will they be damaged?

Probably not. But they will learn to drink — and post on Park Slope Parents — responsibly.

Louise Crawford, a Park Slope mom, also operates “Only the Blog Knows Brooklyn.”
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Reader Feedback

ugh from park slope says:
Why do I even click through to read this drivel?
May 12, 2009, 9:15 am
Rocky from South Brooklyn says:
Another weekly installment of the Trustafarians do Parenting. Lord help us all if all people in Park Slope are like that.
May 12, 2009, 1:02 pm
Ann Landers from Park Slope says:
Here's some advice -- cancel your subscription. Oh, wait -- you're not paying anything for the Brooklyn Paper or access to its web site. Do you really have nothing better to do than read and comment on a column that you don't like?
May 12, 2009, 4:44 pm
Karen Menhart from Sewickley, PA says:
Dear Ms. Crawford,

I offer my condolences on the loss of your Father, Monte Ghertler.

My Grandparents owned your Father's home in East Greenwich on McDougal Lake Road. I grew up in that house and have many fine memories. It was a home full of warmth and love.

I am sorry for the lost of your Father. If he had even a fraction of the joy I had there, know that his time there was relaxing and renewing.

I often visit the neighbors, Bob and Carolyn Akland, and look down the hill to the house and wonder if the people living there know how special it is. I hope you Dad loved the serenity of the farm as much as he loved the hustle and bustle of NYC with the opera and arts.

Sincerely,
Karen Menhart
115 River Road
Sewickley, PA 15143
May 18, 2009, 10:11 am
Louise Crawford from Park Slope says:
Thank you for this lovely note it means a lot to me. I will write you a real letter, too. Best, Louise
June 16, 2009, 3:23 pm
Louise Crawford from Park Slope says:
Thanks Ann Landers. Good advice.
June 16, 2009, 3:24 pm

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