If you haven’t already heard, the rumors are true. The building where Bar Matchless (557 Manhattan Ave) is in has been sold and they were asked to vacate the premises. But they aren’t going down without a fight and they are still open for business.
The question of how long remains precarious as they have not been able to reach the landlords or new owners about the possibility of staying. For now, Tuesday 2-4-1 drinks, cheap late night food, and epic hangover brunch lives on in what is a Greenpoint institution.
Bar Matchless is one of the last men standing, having survived the death knell of North Brooklyn DIY spots and small performance spaces of yesteryear. Since its inception in 2003, it’s always been in the black and is still a legit thriving successful small business. The only reason it is slated to close is because the current landlord has not renewed the lease and the new owners remain out of touch – literally and figuratively.
Numerous attempts to negotiate a lease or at least stay for a few more months have been ignored and though their shows have been cancelled (they were booked through May 2018), Bar Matchless is staying put “until they lock the doors on us,” owner Erik Green said.
For this Greenpointer, having made lasting memories ranging from loud debaucherous nights to quiet early weekend afternoons, there is no question that as NY Mag describes, Bar Matchless has become a “neighborhood beacon.” And while change isn’t always a bad thing, some mysterious investor with no show of respect for a beloved cultural institution, swooping in to impact the landscape of a neighborhood, is always heart breaking.
Bar Matchless had a scrappy start in 2003, opening it’s doors as a bar next to a squatter bicycle shop, which eventually became the courtyard and live music room that we all know now. For 12 years, they have hosted an estimated amount of over 15,000 bands in over 5,000 shows with programming four days out of the week on average. It’s beginnings as a music spot coincided with notable moments in Greenpoint history like the revival of McCarren Park Pool as a concert venue, and alongside Enid’s, that corner of the hood was a destination for a no frills affordable good time.
Since then, Bar Matchless has gone through some slight iterations, including a revamp of their programming plus a shift in their brunch menu (keeping the spirit of recently closed Park Luncheonette alive), but continues to be the kind of welcoming space that encourages art and community.
“The thing that made us a community favorite was because all of the bands from around NYC played.. punk bands, metal bands.. ,” said booker Jack Drury. While they have booked many incredible acts, including our own Greenpointers showcases, the mission was always to create their own scene, largely local and close to home – many of the staff are also in bands and are friends with bands that perform. And some learned the ropes at Bar Matchless and moved on to open up their own bars like Lake Street, Soft Spot, St. Vitus to name a few.
Beyond the music, Bar Matchless encompasses so much of what makes this neighborhood great – an amalgam of community and creativity. The walls of the music space is filled with artist Masato Okano’s work, which he painted during live performances over the course of several months. Local pole dancing studio Incredipole has hosted Twerk it Tuesdays. Broken Comedy was born here. And where else could you strut your heavy metal roar?
Its impending closure feels like somebody is prematurely pulling the plug out of a place that still has a lot of life in it and something about that just feels wrong. “I don’t know anything about real estate and I don’t know what we could do. At least they could let us stay for a few months,” said Jack.
When we went to say our goodbyes on New Years Eve, the McCarren Park Hawk was perched on a fire escape right outside. Masato was painting a new mural on the wall of a hand and the words “Endless Blockades.” To Masato, “It is a message that I want Bar Matchless to be blockaded forever no matter how New York City changes…. I wish the greatest bar of my life will be kept forever.” I like to think they are protective totems to save Bar Matchless but the truth is in the face of a nameless entity with the power of cash money, it seems impossible.
Can Bar Matchless be saved? Comment with your ideas and share your memories!