Monday, October 27, 2008

Farrell's Bar & Grill

This summer I went for a beer for the first time at Farrell's Bar & Grill in Windsor Terrace, Brooklyn. They were--and still are--celebrating their 75th anniversary this year, founded in 1933, the year Prohibition was lifted.

A man's bar, with few women in it, the place is spare and echoing, with a white pressed-tin ceiling and a wooden phone booth. Unlike other old bars, like Pete McManus or Julius' or Montero's, it isn't dark and cluttered with memorabilia. There are no black-and-white photos of the founders in their shirtsleeves, no dusty felt Dodgers pennants, no faded menus from the 1940s. In its starkness, it's almost anti-nostalgic. But that doesn't mean Farrell's embraces the new.

It's still an authentic old bar, a blue-collar enclave on the edge of gentrified Park Slope. Its customers wear firefighter and ironworker t-shirts with pro-union caps. They tell raucous, drunken, curse-filled stories around the bar.

But a subdued mood descended on Farrell's last week when the news came that owner Danny Mills leaped to his death off the Verrazano-Narrows Bridge, a bridge he helped build as an ironworker in the 1960s.

In 2006, The Times described Mr. Mills as "a sturdy sort, with the terse diction of the woefully unlubricated." The Brooklyn Paper says he was "known for his big smile, jovial demeanor and generous buy-backs." And the Irish Echo wrote of Farrell's, it's "not so much a neighborhood bar, some would argue, as the heart and soul of the neighborhood itself."

Apparently, for some reason, some locals hope for the demise of Farrell's. Writes one Brooklynian, "Unfortunately for those who, upon hearing this sad news, are secretly hoping that this means the end of Farrell's, it's my pleasure to inform you all that the bar will carry on like it always has."

Let's hope that's true.

The Brooklyn Eagle writes about Mills and the bar:

"In 1964, Mills, at age 23, became a bartender at the legendary Farrell’s Bar and Grill, at 215 Prospect Park West by 16th Street. In 1996, he became the owner...

Farrell’s was opened in a then-heavily Irish neighborhood in 1933 by Mike Farrell at the end of Prohibition, serving Ballantine and Knickerbocker beers at first. It has long been known for its drinks, food, socializing, beer served in Styrofoam cups, and famous patrons. Later, Bill and Eddie Farrell became the owners. In 1996, they sold their bar to their three bartenders, one of whom was Mills.

Among its many famous patrons in the 1970s was Oscar-winner Shirley MacLaine, who broke the tradition of being chaperoned by a male and became a well-known customer. Famous newsmen Jimmy Breslin and Pete Hamill were frequent patrons."


Dwight said...

75 years. Now that's impressive in any business in any venue, particularly NYC. The NYC bar scene by itself would make an interesting chapter in your Book of Lamentations. Check out, the project of two brothers who look back wistfully to a time when there was a brewery on every other NYC corner.

Anonymous said...

when did Mr. Farrell die???This was a cool gathering place for many slopers--not just the elite snob asshats

Anonymous said...

sorry not Mr. Farrell-my mistake--

Anonymous said...

Great place. Used to pop in on occassion when I lived around the corner.

Great patrons with hearts of gold.

JakeGould said...

Excellent profile. And very happy you're focusing on one of the outer Borough's well known—but oddly maligned—institutions.

Just an FYI regarding Brooklynian: The folks there are just horrid. They do cover parts of Brooklyn life in Prospect Heights and Crown Heights that others don't. But they are painfully elitist. For example, they ahev undying hate of "Aunt Suzie's" in Park Slope despite it being there for decades and continually praise "Al Di La" which is the more "haute" cuisine place.

I left that board after a few run-ins and eye rolling events. Like a board member wondering where to get an old lady cart in Brooklyn. I can't go into the detail, but the air of faux authenticity in that discussion made me ill. They are the worst kind of gentrifiers.

Anonymous said...

I don't care how long this place has been around. The patrons that keep it open must be cut from the same cloth as the staff who make rude, sexist comments to women and make it so uncomfortable for any minority who dare darken their doorstep, they leave in disgust. I've had several of my friends unknowingly go to Farrell's for a beer after a hard day at work and because of their nationality, they were blatantly ignored.

If that's what you call a "friendly, neighborhood bar" - I want none of it!

Anonymous said...

When I'm rich I'm going to buy Farrell's and make it a gay bar just to piss off the d-bags that work there and go there.