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The day the music died: Williamsburg’s Black Betty to close • Brooklyn Paper

The day the music died: Williamsburg’s Black Betty to close

And one for my homies: Black Betty bartender Johnny Hunt pours out a cocktail to honor the end of the death of the 10-year-old Williamsburg venue.
The Brooklyn Paper / Ben Muessig

The influential Williamsburg music venue Black Betty is closing on a blue note.

When the Metropolitan Avenue club and eatery opened its doors a decade ago, it was one of the first establishments in Williamsburg to cater to the neighborhood’s burgeoning artist community. And when it closes on June 15, it will be among the first of North Brooklyn’s early gentrifiers to be driven out of the neighborhood.

Black Betty owners, staff, and patrons claim that the closing of the venue — which will shut down after a blow-out party featuring Rev. Vince Anderson and his Love Choir — marks the end of an era for the neighborhood the club helped transform into a cultural destination.

“We were definitely the first of a new breed of Williamsburg bars and performance places — and I don’t see something truly replacing Black Betty,” said co-owner Bud Schmeling, whose intimate concert venue and attached Middle Eastern restaurant has drawn acts including Sharon Jones and the Dap Kings and Antibalas for free shows.

Schmeling claims he’ll have to close because his landlord reneged on an agreement and offered the 10-year-old venue to other tenants behind his back — even though Schmeling and his partner Sandy Glover had already paid a $35,000 fee and agreed to increase their monthly rent from $2,700 to $5,000.

But landlord Pasquale Pescatore claims he gave the owners a chance to renegotiate their lease with the increased rents — but they were too slow to respond.

Pescatore told The Brooklyn Paper that he only contacted other renters after the owners of Black Betty went out of touch for about three weeks during lease negotiations.

“I negotiated first with Bud, then I negotiated with these people when they weren’t interested,” said Pescatore, who claimed that the owners of Black Betty also frequently paid their rent checks late.

Pescatore noted that the new renters have similar plans for the venue. He promised to reimburse Schmeling and Glover for their $35,000 fee.

North Brooklyn concert-goers say the music scene in Williamsburg will be a little bit quieter — and a little lamer — once Black Betty closes.

“That place means a lot to the neighborhood,” said Paul Mahajan, whose rock band, Geezer on Diesel, played the venue on May 19. “This place feels like it’s made for a different era of Williamsburg.”

Rev. Vince Anderson and His Love Choir will play the final concert at Black Betty [366 Metropolitan Ave. at Havemeyer Street in Williamsburg, (718) 599-0243] on June 15.

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