Life after Brooklyn Night Bazaar: Beaching Reimagined & An Oceanfront Oktoberfest
Brooklyn Night Bazaar became the kind of neighborhood staple that I took for granted. I went a couple of times when it first opened and then frequented it less and less assuming that it’d always be there. With new shows and vendors each weekend, it offered enough variety to the local crowd while being consistently draw enough for visitors. There was something for everyone. Plus it was free and cheap.
So when it shut its doors while I was away this past May, I was dismayed that I hadn’t visited in recent months and was appalled to learn that they were priced out by BMW. What will BMW do with the space? No one seems to know for certain so I can only speculate that BMW has jumped on the “experiential marketing” bandwagon and decided that some kind of space that will help it claim its stakes on the ever evolving “cool” factor is a good idea. I imagine this being explained in a deck in some boardroom meeting – the budget, the projections, definitions of the Brooklyn hipster/yuccie/millennial demographic and the perfect space to appeal to them. Cut to image of a packed night in Brooklyn Night Bazaar. Cue room full of gray-haired gentlemen nodding in agreement: Let’s take it over.
Until recently, I never paid much attention to the people behind Brooklyn Night Bazaar. It was more about a thing to do. So when I first got in contact with Belvy, I thought I was emailing with a woman. Not the tatted up 6’1” former punk-rocker with a George Clooney-esque lilt. Over beers at the Pencil Factory, I learned that one casual night out, his friend Aaron was like “I want to do a night market” and that was the start of the partnership that eventually launched Brooklyn Night Bazaar.
Riis Park Beach Bazaar was meant to be an extension of their “flagship” event in Greenpoint. When Brooklyn Night Bazaar abruptly closed, it was arguably at its peak and had a good momentum going. The news was a bit of a shock to Belvy and Aaron as it was to the staff, which consisted of around 250 people on any given night. Some shows were moved to the beach but a lot had to be cancelled. And with less than 4 weeks to move out, a lot of employees lost their jobs.
I have a deeply ingrained respect for an iterative process so it was compelling to hear about those early conversations between Belvy and Aaron about what a night market in Brooklyn should be like. Aaron drew inspiration from his visits to the night markets in Asia and Belvy drew on his experiences in the music and bar scene to make it cool, sexy, and unique.
Belvy’s personal touch in the vibe that was the Brooklyn Night Bazaar is apparent. Here is a dude who first moved to Greenpoint so he can walk his dog in a place where no one knew him. When he was a kid in the Lower East Side and a member of D Generation, they’d rehearse in Williamsburg because it was “cheap as shit.” Back then, the site of The Edge was “an actual garbage dump, with junkies, hookers, drug dealers, you name it, running around.” When he transitioned into owning and operating bars in the late 90s, there was Galapagos on North 6th. “That and Planet Thai. Those were the first two out there.” (Galapagos turned into Public Assembly, which is now Black Bear.) He’s DIY with a punk-rock background (was a member of 7 Seconds, UK Subs, D Generation, and Libertine) and you could see his influence in Brooklyn Night Bazaar and now in Riis Park Beach Bazaar.
His favorite cuisine is seafood. So it’s no coincidence that in collaboration with Wild Feast, Riis Park Beach Bazaar is bringing an array of dishes from wild caught local seafood to the indoor art deco pavilion that hosts RPBB’s main food court in the summer. And in the same affordable spirit as Brooklyn Night Bazaar, over 15 menu items are priced under $10.
Belvy’s face lights up with energy when he describes this latest endeavor. “It’s all local. It’s all sustainable. Freshly caught… The thing that you’re eating was swimming around in the ocean a few hours ago.” The way he describes their monkfish sandwich makes my mouth water. He says the food is so good, the photos don’t do it justice. Well, I guess I’ll be the judge of that.
Wildfeast at Riis will kick off its grand opening this weekend (10/10-11) with a two day oceanfront Oktoberfest. Hours will be 3pm-10pm (Mon, Thurs, Fri). Sat-Sun will have 10am brunch paired with NFL football and other sports.
Personally, I like being by the water this time of year when it’s brisk but still warm enough to walk along the boardwalk. And though it’s a bit of a trek for a meal, it’s a relatively short ride away for a little foodie getaway in an old art deco building from the 30’s with beautiful bay windows looking out into the ocean. And until Brooklyn Night Bazaar comes back to the hood (hopefully), it’s the only place where you’ll get a glimpse of its spirit.