Greenpoint Gazette

A Bar at the End of the Road

BY Juliet Linderman

When Jessica Wertz set out to open a bar in Greenpoint, she knew exactly what she wanted it to look like.
“I wanted to do a tavern you might find in an ancient Chinese trading village at the end of the Silk Road,” Wertz said. “They’d been traveling for eight or ten months, and then they reached this village, and there were people from Europe and Asia singing and dancing and partying. That was so appealing to me.”
The resemblance is palpable. The new bar, which is still unnamed, is located at 597 Manhattan Avenue, smack dab in the middle of one of the hottest bar blocks in North Brooklyn, flanked by Enid’s and Matchless to the South and Manhattan Inn to the North. Almost entirely made of wood—the walls, the ceiling, the dark paneled exterior that looks almost charred, with a horizontal bar of jade-colored tile on top—the bar is dimly-lit and atmospheric, greeting bar-goers with custom-designed metal arches that line the walls and hang above a row of cushioned benches. Behind the bar are five beer taps, an impressive selection of liquors and a DJ booth—complete with a hand-made wooden rack to hold records—that will host an emcee seven nights a week. The bar also opens onto an enormous backyard, where Wertz plans to install a pagoda for the summertime.
To open the bar, Wertz partnered with several big-name North Brooklynites like interior designer Johnny McCormick and the three owners of Bar Matchless including Ted Mann and Eric Green, who also owns neighborhood motorcycle shop Works Engineering, where he and Wertz met while she was apprenticing as a welder. The process of preparing the bar for its grand opening was a truly collaborative one: To paint the walls, Wertz enlisted a well-known painter friend, whose studio is in the same building as Works.
“My friend Ray, he’s brilliant. He sells his paintings for thousands of dollars,” she said. “Yeah, I basically have $100,000 walls.”
The interior is artfully curated and includes a back nook area with small couches and walls covered in burlap sacks—castoffs from Oslo Coffee, which also occupies a space in the Works Engineering warehouse.
Though owning bars is relatively new to Wertz, she has a wealth of experience in the food and service industry. When she moved to New York from Korea at age 18—roughly twelve years ago—she found the only job she could get was at a restaurant. Over time, she climbed the ranks, and realized that owning her own bar or restaurant would be the natural next step in her career. In the last month, she has opened two very different types of bars: the other is Lone Wolf, a rock n’ roll bar in Bushwick.
“I love going out there and seeing an awesome band play, then coming back here and walking in, and it’s beautiful,” she added.
If you ask any Brooklynite, they’ll most likely tell you that North Brooklyn is ground zero for cool new bars, but Wertz found herself opening bars in these neighborhoods almost by accident, or rather, by chance.
“I wish I could say I was a brilliant entrepreneurial business woman, but both my bars came to me serendipitously,” Wertz said. “They’re creative and fun, but we’re not consciously going after anything.”
Opening a bar in the city is no easy feat, and the bar on Manhattan Avenue is no exception. In addition to the usual difficulty of dealing with city agencies like the Department of Buildings, Wertz learned quickly how tough it is to get a liquor license in this town—especially when the previous owners tried to open a bar there first, and were granted a non-transferable liquor license for the space.
“Working with municipalities can bring anyone to their knees,” Wertz said. “But our “I”s are dotted and our “t”s are crossed.”
And now, after more than a year of hard work, Wertz can get behind the bar and enjoy her spoils.
“My favorite part is standing with all my partners on the night of the grand opening, taking a shot and thinking, ‘look what we did.’”


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