An iconic spot for entertainment, Pete’s Candy Store (not a candy store) has welcomed notable musicians, actors, and comedians throughout the decades. Dua Lipa filmed her music video for “Don’t Start Now” at Pete’s. Norah Jones performed on that very same stage with Puss n Boots. Lake Street Drive filmed a Tiny Desk Concert for NPR there. Plus, the 2011 film Our Idiot Brother shot scenes at Pete’s.
As its reputation has grown, Pete’s has remained as charming and humble as ever, which makes it a nostalgic choice for established artists, a special kind of safe haven for new and emerging artists.
“As noted on their website, “The storefront at 709 Lorimer Street in Brooklyn has been in operation since the 1920’s, when the grandfather of the current building owners ran a local general store, known affectionately by the nickname Funzi’s. By the 1970’s, Funzi handed over the reins to others, one of whom, Pete Caruso, named the spot Pete’s Candy Store. By that time, the store had evolved into a sort of greasy spoon diner and neighborhood numbers joint. This same arrangement, later including some poker tables in the rear where the live music room now exists, continued well into the 1990’s.”Pete’s Candy Store website
Upon speaking with owner and co-founder, Andy McDowell about why he turned the storefront into a bar, McDowell said:
“After over 15 fun years in set design, all the while throwing whole sets in dumpsters after they were done, I wanted to make something more permanent. The funny thing is, I wasn’t really aware that most bar and restaurant ventures end up in the dumpster, too. I got lucky and made something that has lasted over 20 years.”Andy McDowell
Situated towards the back of the space, the stage is uniquely separate from the bar, should the performer choose to close the door which divides the venue. This allows patrons to enjoy either the event in question, or the bar, or both – whatever they choose. With the wide variety of events that do occur at Pete’s, there is truly something for everyone.
Plus, the people are pretty great. After working for a decade at Pete’s, now-manager Jon Gernhart said the following:
“It’s so cliche but my favorite part about working at Pete’s is the neighborhood and all of the regulars. I’ve met a good deal of people who I now consider to be close friends of mine at the bar. I also play music and I’ve met so many other musicians though Pete’s and had the opportunity to collaborate on some really fun projects. The rest of the staff is also involved in a number of creative outlets and overall it’s just a great community. It’s a real privilege to be able to be a part of it.”Jon Gernhart
Each week, there are a few recurring events that you can check out, for example:
- Open Mic Night: Every Sunday evening for the past 20 years, Pete’s has hosted an open mic night. Now led by host Bruce Martin, the tradition continues on with a sign up sheet that becomes available in the beginning of the evening.
- Quizzo Trivia: Every Wednesday evening Pete’s hosts a trivia night. Top 3 winning teams get cash toward their bar tabs, and prestigious bragging rights.
- Buckaroos Comedy Show: Every Tuesday night Pete’s also hosts a comedy show presented by Joe Perrow, Sam Mazany, Ethan Victor, and Sam Haddis, and featuring a different variety of comedians each week.
“In starting Buckaroos in June, my co-producers and I wanted to bring some of the funniest comics from around the city into Williamsburg. Pete’s is a great venue for stand up because it’s so intimate between the crowd and the performer and it makes the show a great time for everyone. That’s really what we try to bring to the shows every week, great comedians having a blast doing what they love, and hope that creates a fun event for our audiences.”Joe Perrow
Plus, Pete’s hosts some frequently recurring events, just to name a few:
- Pete’s Reading Series: For twenty years, this reading series has been a heralded opportunity for literary minds to share their work.
- Pete’s Big Salmon (Poetry Series): Poets from all over come to share their work.
- Play Date: Play Date gives writers a chance to have their work read aloud in front of an audience.
- Kweendom: Hosted by Bobby Hankinson, Kweendom is a comedy show featuring a variety of LGBTQ+ entertainers.
But that’s not all. In addition to the weekly and biweekly events that occur at Pete’s, there are also a few special occasion events that you don’t want to miss.
Tuesday, September 28th: Buckaroos Comedy Show at 7pm followed by a performance by musician Katie Glasgow at 8:30pm.
Wednesday, September 29th: Trivia at 7:30pm followed by Fun House Comedy at 10pm.
Thursday, September 30th: A staged reading of the play Fine Young Assholes by Kameron Villavicencio, directed by yours truly, followed by a performance by The Dream Eaters at 8:30pm.
When asked how bartender Villavicencio feels about performing her play at her place of work, she said:
“Pete’s is a cultural hub for artists. It doesn’t matter where you’re from or where you’re at in your career, you have a community at Pete’s. I don’t know what’s next for Fine Young Assholes, but it’ll always have Pete’s in its performance history, and I think that’s pretty special.”Kameron Villavicencio
Friday, October 1st: Poetry soiree, Dead Pete’s Society at 7pm followed by a performance by Tower + Star at 9pm, a performance by junebug at 10pm, and a performance by AC Sapphire at 11pm.
Saturday, October 2nd: Eye Candy Open Mic at 3:30pm.
Sunday, October 3rd: Open Mic at 5pm, followed by performances by MCP at 8:30pm, and Sam Phelps at 9:30pm.
Monday, October 4th: Almost Therapy comedy variety show at 6:30pm followed by performances by Paging Doctor Moon at 8:30pm and Taylor Pearlstein at 9:30pm.
So, there you have it! An example of an average week at Pete’s Candy Store. But no one takes it for granted. After a year like 2020, the appreciation for these events has grown.
“I was one of the first staff members to return to Pete’s after closing in March last year. I started back at the end of May 2020 I think so I was able to experience all the ups and downs and forward and backward steps that the restaurant industry faced over the last year and half. The dark days of table service and mandatory hot dog sales, the outdoor only seating during the coldest months of winter, and thankfully the return to live music and being able to have a beer and sit at the bar. The pandemic changed Pete’s as it’s changed all of us and Pete’s 2021 is not Pete’s 2019 and I think that’s alright. I’m happy with how we’ve adapted and done what we could to stay connected to our neighborhood. It was often convoluted and isn’t anywhere close to being fully figured out but I’m glad to be taking the necessary steps to safely provide a space for people to reconnect and share their art and experiences again.”Jon Gernhart (manager)
To learn more about additional events occurring throughout the rest of the year, visit Pete’s calendar. Proof of vaccination is required for entry.
For musicians or performers who wish to be considered, you can submit your act online.