Bed-Stuy's Do or Dine has been closed for just under a year, its storefront sitting vacant since the sudden shuttering of the experimental New American restaurant. Now though, a team familiar to Brooklyn boozehounds is taking it over, as Sal Fristensky and Bill Mack of Luckydog, Skinny Dennis, Rocka Rolla and George & Jack's have opened their first Brooklyn bar outside Williamsburg, turning the popular restaurant space into a bar called Do or Dive.
The name was simple, merely requiring the partners to draw a "V" on the Do or Dine awning, which still sits in front of the now bar. "It's like Luckydog fucked Rocka Rolla and this is their bastard child," Mack told us on a recent visit.
Technically, he was talking about the bar's jukebox, which leans on '70s country as well as '70s and '80s rock and funk, but it would be easy to mistake the description as extending to the bar itself. In the front, you're greeted by two large red vinyl booths straight out of Rocka Rolla, but the rest of the bar's decor, which Mack says took him seven months to collect, leans more towards the down-home kitsch feel at Luckydog. A huge shark with a Budweiser in its mouth, a vintage '50s metal drive-in arrow, and a Genesee Cream Ale banker's lamp are among the collection behind the bar, while things like a clock-like Blatz ad with a spinning unicycle rider and a baseball jacket from fellow dive the Turkey's Nest adorn the walls in front of the bar.
Like Luckydog, Do or Dive also has free shuffleboard, but if that's not enough to entertain yourself, there's also erotic photohunt, and in a first for Fristensky and Mack's bars, there's a TV. It comes with a catch though: it's only going to be used to show Jeopardy at 7 p.m.
The bar's backyard should be ready to go by the fall, and should provide plenty of space for dog-adjacent selfies, since Do or Dive will also be dog-friendly. And beyond the yard, you can also look forward to a custom beer from Bronx Brewery named after the owners, Bill and Sal's Excellent Adventure, debuting at the bar soon.
As for the drinks, Fristensky and Mack kept things cheap, with their selection of 18 craft taps featuring locals to New York like Southern Tier, Bronx and Brooklyn Breweries, as well as familiar names like Bells and Oskar Blues, all of which will run you $5 or $6, save for the Narragansett which is $4. Or you can throw craft beer snobbery to the wind and grab a 32 oz. Vat of Bud, or a Bud for a Lowlife (High Life and a shot) for $5 each, which should make for some interesting days if you start drinking at noon.
In a borough where everyone's got fancy cocktails with fancy cocktail prices, Do or Dive keeps it refreshingly cheap and simple, with offerings like margaritas ($8) and old fashioneds ($7), an original drink called a Bad Dad (grape Pedialyte and vodka) and the Frozen Coffee Thing (brought over from Skinny Dennis and Rocka Rolla), both of which are $7. Happy hour ($1 off draft and well drinks) also stretches on for days it seems, running from noon to 7 p.m. each day.
"For $30, you'll be able to have a great time here," Mack promises.
The bar initially encountered opposition from Bed-Stuy's Community Board 3, which voted against approving a liquor license before the State Liquor Authority gave it to them. Mack still seemed puzzled by the decision, telling us that one woman on the board told him and his partners that they would get the 4 a.m. liquor license anyway, but "this will just delay you." While he said he holds no ill will towards the board, Mack told us "the fact is a lot of people want to be out until 3 a.m., and they were trying to be the morality police." Mack also didn't accept the argument that Do or Dive wasn't a bar "for" Bed-Stuy.
"This isn't a biker joint, this isn't a metal joint or a gentrification bar," he said. "We want to be the neighborhood sweet spot. This is a bar for anyone who wants to be here." In a subsequent email, Mack elaborated on his issues with the Community Board:
The CB stated that this bar should not be for residents who just moved here in the last 3 or 5 years. So a five year resident is not a member of the community? Is this a private community? I think it's time for new faces on the CB that actually represent the influx of new residents that have moved into the neighborhood in the last five years.
The questions that were asked of us included "How many black people are you going to hire?" and "I have a church group of kids, are you going to donate to us ?" I think that's called extortion, no? We want to take a vacant storefront and make it a neighborhood bar for all to have fun in after work, as opposed to spending their money someplace else and that's a problem? There are already 20 vacant store fronts on Bedford Avenue. I guess the CB likes that. Change is good, people need jobs."
Do or Dive is located at 1108 Bedford Avenue, and opens tonight (Thursday).