“Obviously the success of the place has been wonderful,” said Franklin Park co-owner Matthew Roff, 33, on a recent Monday night. “We thought we were going to be a 650 square foot bar with a yard for three years, we had no idea we were going to expand to become a 4,000 square foot compound – so to speak – in less than a year.”
Mr. Roff was sitting across from BTB in the newish Franklin Park annex at St. John’s Place and Franklin Avenue, which was added onto a smaller bar across the yard and holds most of its scheduled programming. The young Brooklyn nightlife impresario, who also has stakes in Park Slope music venue Southpaw and Williamsburg’s Public Assembly (formerly Galapagos), was sporting a slick track jacket and baggy jeans and listing the ways in which the Crown Heights venue draws its clientele.
“Monday night is Trivia Night; Tuesday night we have live music, some sort of jazz or funk acoustic, something kind of low key but with a good pace to it. Friday and Saturday night we have different DJs throughout the year and Wednesdays we have an after work party starting.”
Oh, and did he mention the organic produce?
“Starting in June, and through September, we’re going to have [the Crown Heights CSA] parked right out front every Tuesday evening, 5pm on, where stuff is brought in that day from a farm in upstate New York,” he added. (For more information on shares, visit their website.)
Mr. Roff attributes the bar’s accelerated growth to great customers and good press, but certainly the establishment’s local entertainment offerings don’t hurt.
“This particular space sort of grew in phases – we always had ideas but we never really knew how big it would get,” said Mr. Roff, who foresees “tons and tons of growth” in Crown Heights’ future.
He even has two new competitors – the Manhattans and Washington Commons – on nearby Washington Avenue, clearing a direct pub path between Franklin Avenue and Vanderbilt Avenue’s already bustling nightlife. “I guess the only way to go about it now is to say the more the merrier, hopefully more people will come to the neighborhood.”
Mr. Roff, a Park Slope native who often boasts that Bar Toto was his local bodega growing up, offered up a few reasons why Brooklyn’s nightlife might be attractive to borough residents and visitors alike.
“You’re going to get the unpretentious feel from the majority of places. Obviously drinks and door covers are usually less expensive, and I think that owners are a little bit friendlier here than in the city,” he said, clearly priding himself on his establishment’s accommodating nature.
“I think there are a lot of places that may not do that so much, a lot of the owners are more concerned with what they think the public needs, rather than listening to what the public wants,” he continued.
Our conversation soon turned to the few Manhattan-centric party goers left in the city that have yet to visit our fair borough.
“It’s very hard to convince somebody that lives in Manhattan now – especially if they’re not from New York – to get off their ass and get on the fucking train, or get in a cab and spend $22 and go to a different neighborhood. They’d rather spend $22 to get in some place in Manhattan than try something new,” he said, though he’d love to see more of them drinking at his bar and surely so do his competitors in the nascent Prospect/Crown Heights nightlife hub.
After the interview I packed up shop, said my goodbyes and walked two blocks up St. John’s Place to Washington Avenue. Underneath a dim streetlight at the corner opposite me stood Tracy Westmoreland, with his characteristically long hair and goatee beard, waiting to cross the street to his new bar the Manhattans (Update: the bar changed ownership).
We did a few loops around his new neighborhood and ended up back at Franklin Park with Mr. Roff. Mr. Westmoreland had been to the space before the annex was completed, and complimented Mr. Roff – his friend and fellow New York native – on a job well done.
After dancing to the R&B wafting through the almost empty bar, Mr. Westmoreland sat down to a wheat-free beer. We toasted, and the neighborhood newcomer apologized to Mr. Roff for his recent snipe in the blogosphere about exorbitant vodka prices at a competitor’s establishment that “begins with F and ends in Park.”
After shooting the shit under a big screen projection of the opening season Mets game against the Padres, we got up to leave, and the friendly competitors bid each other good night.
(Photo by franklinpark618 via Flickr)