It’s been almost a full year since we first caught up with the three guys behind Our Wicked Lady; needless to say, the East Williamsburg bar-venue-studio hybrid is unrecognizable as the gutted industrial space we first happened upon. Incandescent bulbs shine down on a long wooden bar, behind which glows an illuminated drink menu. “Do you think that font is too small?” Wayne Gordon asked.
While tonight is the soft opening (friends, family, and investors only), it’s clear Wayne and his partners Zachary Glass and Keith Hamilton, all service industry vets, are set on making everything just right for July 8 when they open their doors for real. “It’s going to be crazy,” Wayne said of the grand opening.
While the bar is just coming together after months of clearing the hurdles of red tape, permits, and of course a liquor license, the four studio spaces upstairs are up and running (they’re occupied by fashion designers and a filmmaker). So are the band practice spaces adjacent to the bar on the first floor.
“We really went to the trouble to soundproof these and make them nice,” Keith explained. Both he and Zach had terrible experiences with rehearsal spaces of their own, examples of exactly what not to do. “Because there are only nine spaces, this place has way more of a community feel,” Keith said. “Here people will see each other and say hello, and it’s more like, ‘I’ll meet you at the bar.’ That’s what we want to do — it’s this whole idea of creating a scene.”
Though Our Wicked Lady will be hosting shows for Gigawatts Festival, the bar will function as a venue only from time to time. “It’s less of a venue and more of a bar,” Wayne confirmed. “We’re more like a playground for musicians.”
During our visit, we looked around curiously for a stage but couldn’t find one. “Bands will be playing right on the floor, punk rock style. That’s the spirit.” Wayne explained. “For us it’s what we grew up with and you don’t want to be craning your neck watching your favorite artists, you want to be involved.”
He added: “Even our DJ booth is behind the bar– we didn’t want them to feel far away or isolated.”
“Every DJ that comes in, we’ll teach them how to change the kegs,” Zach joked.
An iconic looking art installation hangs on one recessed wall area– neon-like tubes of LED light extending outward like sun rays that change colors and can even be programmed with video pixels. This will provide what Keith hopes will become an “immediately recognizable” backdrop for the bands.
For the buildout, the three partners had the help of friends in construction, contracting, and even pals from Colossal, Williamsburg’s old-school mural ad agency. “It’s kind of been a family affair, putting this place together,” Wayne explained. “That’s how it had to be, because we don’t have a shitload of money.”
“We’re not some stockbrokers who were like, ‘It’d be fun to have a bar, it would be a nice tax write-off,'” Zach added.
As they explained to us last year, revenue from the studio spaces pays for the building. “And the bar just pays for itself,” Zach explained. But the friends have also turned to an ongoing Kickstarter to raise money to cover construction costs for the rooftop deck. “What we don’t have in money, we have friends working in lighting, friends who do carpentry, friends who want to help,” Zach said. “It’s a big undertaking for a first bar.”
Our Wicked Lady has something of an industrial feel and is spacious even by East Williamsburg bar standards, but it’s surprisingly warm feeling with reds, soft whites, and natural tones. Incandescent bulbs and wood accents certainly help, but Keith said they’re hoping to put some final finishes on the place to make it even more “cozy.” During our visit, a guy walked in bearing art work for the walls– all graphic, tattoo-themed prints.
Even large bars can feel crammed during a set. To address this the guys have put in moveable seating and tables that can be removed for shows and replaced for normal nights. And while a rooftop deck would have been less appealing if Our Wicked Lady had opened back in January as the partners originally projected, it’s almost essential to grabbing people’s attention during the summer. I mean, let’s be real, these are guys are competing with the likes of a yacht club. “We’re hoping the deck will be open by the grand opening,” Zach explained. The roof space is massive and accordingly will have its very own “satellite bar.”
The guys say they’ll be stocking some locally made booze, including selections from The Eighty Six Company. “Our cocktail menu is based around their liquors,” Wayne said. They’re also aiming to use local ingredients, including high-end syrups from a neighborhood company Morris Kitchen, for the nine or so house cocktails on offer. A wine list is also on the way; Wayne says it will likely include a Barbera and a Sauvignon Blanc.
As for the beer, here’s what’ll be on draft: Sly Fox Helles Lager, Braven White IPA, Two Roads Hefe, Captain Lawrence Liquid Gold, Radeberger Pilsner, Kelso IPA.
“It’s been an uphill battle getting things ready,” Keith said. “But we’re just about to pull it off.”
Our Wicked Lady is located at 153 Morgan Avenue in East Williamsburg. The bar officially opens for business on Wednesday, July 8.
Update: Our Wicked Lady let us in on three cocktails that will for sure make the menu.
Kaiser Paloma – Tequila Cabeza, lime, Schofferhofer grapefruit Weisse
Tin Penny Ginny – Ford’s Gin, lemon, Tin Penny Jenny blueberry jam, soda
86 Vespa- Ford’s Gin, Ayelsbury Duck vodka, Amaro Montenegro, soda