Bar Matchless closed last night and it stayed crowded till the very end. All of hipsterdom from the realms of musicians, DJs, artists and those with 9-to-5 jobs came to celebrate what was for many the Ellis Island of Williamsburg. Owner Erik Green made a last call at 3:30am and it took another hour to empty the place out.
When it opened in 2003, Matchless was one of the few friendly watering holes in the McCarren Park area, along with Turkey’s Nest, Enid’s, and Rosemary’s Greenpoint Tavern. Over time it became home to every bar activity you could name, from music to comedy to the Deck the Walls Holiday Art Market. The place never got old; when new friends moved to Greenpoint or North Williamsburg, you always knew where to take them out for the very first time.
Personally, I’ve celebrated many birthdays there and had many hairs of the dog while wearing shades against Bar Matchless’s big, bright windows. In 2013, I worked as a production assistant during the famous Girls episode filmed there. The shoot with a bar full of actors was so complicated that I remember our 1st Assistant Director T Sean Ferguson saying, “We have to stop the [financial] bleeding” as he broke the crew for lunch after they’d incurred yet another meal penalty.
As last night’s debaucherous farewell went into the wee hours, seltzer rained down from soda guns being shot in the air. Patron Turbo Chainsaw laid out on the bar in his boxer briefs before giving way to a half dozen women who started dancing on the bar.
The top 40 soundtrack being picked by the staff was far from the usual rock n’ roll rep but the music was just the comfort the crowd needed. Then things slowed down for “Never Tear Us Apart” by INXS; every word was sung by a mob of heartbroken barflys who banged on the island tables clinging to the building’s iron columns.
At the end of the night, co-owner Erik Green was mobbed by his friends and staff near the back lounge where holiday decorations still hung. It was reminiscent of George Bailey from It’s a Wonderful Life, who was also inundated by a sea of friends during a business setback.
Joining the mass, I handed Green a copy of the group portrait I’d taken of his farewell crowd and asked him if he had any last words for the night. He quickly responded with a “fuck you” in jest followed by a serious “thanks for the memories.” Then he added, “Normal people are boring!”
And some blasts from the past…