It was the end of an era Saturday night as Local 138 closed out its Ludlow Street location ahead of its move around the corner to 181 Orchard Street next month. The move, prompted by the sale of its building to local landlord Delsha Capital, was announced last month on Local 138’s Instagram.
Since it opened in 1996, Local 138 was a popular watering hole for every stripe of New Yorker. Its diverse patronage was in plain sight as Bedford + Bowery hung out there during its last two days.
On Friday, members of nearby Con Artist Collective enjoyed a round of drinks in one of the trademark alcoves, with the door closed for privacy. On Saturday afternoon, bartender Armando Alexander hosted regulars as he has for the past four years; friends such as Pebbles Russell, who has produced parties with Alexander, and China Edelman, who helps run Williamsburg’s Dardy Bar, came to visit him. Edelman told us she comes because Alexander “plays the best music” and his fellow bartender Lauren “has the best smile.”
Meanwhile in Local 138’s rear barroom, local runners from NYC Hash House Harriers were having their annual awards ceremony. Members of the non-competitive “drinking club with a running problem,” which originated in colonial Malaysia and has branches all over the world, quenched their tongue-in-cheek thirst with many beers as they roasted each other with booby prizes. Sarah Merchlewitz told us how Local 138’s no-frills style clicked with their club’s spirit. “It’s a live-and-let-live bar that’s as sweaty as it is chill. It’s also open early, which is perfect for our runs.”
Later that night, the fit kids gave way to the cool kids as DJs Smurfo Udirty and Peter Piper closed out Local 138 properly. Their hip-hop filled every crevasse of the room and sweaty bodies danced alongside a bar that was three rows deep. Street-styled partiers packed the alcoves and feasted on endless Williamsburg Pizza provided by bartender Aaron McCann, who co-owns the small chain and just opened up his fifth location last month.
McCann has worked at Local 138 for 12 years, and said that he “kinda just came with the place” when it was taken over in 2011 by John Cutillo, who also owns nearby Iggy’s Keltic Lounge, East Village’s Spotted Owl and Bushwick’s Lone Wolf. He wore a genuine smile throughout a busy night of hugs, thank you’s and selfie after selfie with customers. “This is family,” McCann said. “We had the fights, the not talking to each other– all of that– and we stay together.”