Beloved bar Red Hook Bait and Tackle said farewell to its tight-knit family with a party that raged well after the cops came, as advertised. Owner Barry O’Meara, who’s closing the bar after 14 years due to the neighborhood’s “different financial demographics,” hosted an all-day affair that started with a chili cook-off, continued with a full concert and ended with a dance party where locals mixed their sweat and tears till the doors finally shut for good at 6am.
Motorcycles began rolling up to bar in the early afternoon, and by 4pm the place was packed for the annual Christopher Piscitelli chili cook-off, named after a former bartender who passed away from cancer in 2014. The first half of the day was family friendly, and local residents Kyle and Hardy Stecker brought their children; Hardy joked that Bait and Tackle was “a place we came with our dog and now we take our children but we don’t know which was easier.”
The cook-off was won by regular Robin Chamberlain, who talked with us about the loss of her hangout. “The closing will have so many ripple effects on the community. It’s a place where everyone around here sees each other.”
In his Irish brogue, the County Galway native said he didn’t like the bar’s closure but didn’t dwell on it, and continued with a special thank you to all of his bartenders, four of which worked non-stop as a team during the height of the party. O’Meara helmed the bar himself for most of the party and ran right back to it after his speech.
Almost a hundred people witnessed the concert’s finale and the immense body heat in the barroom was fuel for the dance party that followed. Folks took over the modest stage and danced against Bait and Tackle’s resident “SUCK IT” sign, which had been auctioned off for over $600 dollars earlier in the night. The music went on well into the early morning and a posse 30 strong was still there at 5:45am when the exhausted bartenders hoarsely yelled for everyone to leave.
Grayson Erzsebet, a Red Hook resident and bartender from nearby 40 Knots Bar, took a final glance back at her home away from home. “I love this bar,” she told us, “but there’s a lot of people here tonight with a lot of history that goes long beyond my experience. Hell, I’ve only been here three years.”