OK, we’re almost in the clear for anything New Year’s Eve-related. But before we hurdle head-first into 2017, there’s one more place we lost over the holiday weekend that’s worth pouring one out for: a Williamsburg bar called Daddy’s.
I have to admit right off the bat– I only found out that Daddy’s existed just hours before they closed their doors forever. Rushing around like it was my last day on Earth, I rushed over to Myths of Creation, a small boutique-y shop that stocks a variety of left-field-ish new clothes that look equally at home cloaking witchy types as they do clinging to proudly basic betches. That might be the kind of magic that the store’s owner Xenia Viray is aiming to concoct here, and the plethora of “tools for ritual–crystals, folk-medicine supplements–for sale around the shop seem only to confirm this.
Naturally, we politely asked one another how the other would be celebrating New Year’s. Xenia was slumped over her iPad cash register, looking defeated when she explained Daddy’s, her favorite bar just down the block was closing forever that night. “I don’t hang out anywhere else,” she told me. “I don’t know where to go.”
My New Year’s Eve came and went, and our contributor Nick McManus sent in a slew of “Parting Shots” Polaroids (seen here) at the start of the week. And there was Daddy’s. I reached out to Xenia again, knowing there was a bit more to the story than “another bar closed” and that she, a regular’s regular would know it better than anyone.
She wrote me back a lovely email, and I realized why I’d never heard of or even stumbled in to Daddy’s–it was a neighborhood bar through and through. Meanwhile in my neighborhood, Bed-Stuy, the neighborhood bars are still around, churning out business and holding their own against the influx of cheesy imitation dive bars and down-home spots. Hardly anyone who lives here is easily fooled by these newer establishments– they’re about a transparent as a vodka cran, and seem only interested in attracting hoards of polo-wearing kids who can’t hold their liquor and people who look angry and lost when they’re walking up and down Bedford Avenue in search of their Yelp cursor.
I’ll let Xenia speak for herself when it comes to her own neighborhood bar:
For a longtime when I moved to this neighborhood, I felt like a total outsider in a lot of ways. When I had to quit my job (at a startup that couldn’t pay me anymore), I started walking around and asking for jobs. I landed at Phoebe’s cafe (which is no longer). [The Graham Avenue establishment closed in 2011.]
That’s when I first felt a sense of community in my neighborhood. People who had been here forever opened their arms to me; I felt like a freshman at a senior’s party.
All of these cafe friends, brilliant art school grads, queer community somebodies, rebels and weirdos, these were the people that led me to Daddy’s. Daddy’s was where you hung out, like Cheers, like the Peach Pit, like the Max. It was welcoming and cozy and not a secret, but without a sign. It had the vibe of a bar where bartenders hang out, or where you go after a show, or where you freak out during the day because your boyfriend just broke up with you.
The difference in feeling between Daddy’s and other bars is like the difference between AOL dialup chats and Instagram. (Stay with me here.) Meaning it was born of an old romantic analog experience while things were shifting radically because of technology, but the DIY spirit of people who made their own flyers and zines using staplers and photocopiers and remembered having to actively find what they wanted to read, what they wanted to listen to, and who they wanted to be friends with by going to actual places, because there was no other way to do it.
I think it’s in our nature to want to gather in the dark around a fire with our friends and make a space between going to work and going to sleep, and I think for this neighborhood Daddy’s was that fire. They literally had a fireplace.
There’s a palpable difference when the people who create a business and cultivate a following actually live within the community. You could come when it was still light out and read a book by yourself, or in the earlier days sit with your friends in the yard talking about your shitty roommate or your boy/girl problems and just chain smoke. And you never felt weird or skeezy or like a drunk.
I didn’t realize until I had been going to Daddy’s for almost six years and working for the owners at their sister bar Mother’s, that the owners and bartenders had played in bands whose albums I had sent away for in the anti-catalog when I was in junior high, or that they toured with people I idolized whose albums were often part of my closing ritual (Mazzy Star, Slant 6, and Holly Golightly.) And I didn’t need to know. Because the space those people created made me feel welcome, inspired, and at home without being pretentious or too cool or explaining anything. A fireplace, good music, a good conversation, and the promise of seeing someone you know when you just needed to get out of your house, your job or your own head. A source of light and warmth for fun creative people to orbit like tiny satellites, once in awhile, meeting each other in the dark and causing a spark that can’t be replicated. You had to be there, I guess.