GOWANUS – The space at Gowanus Gardens is fairly large, with a big, rainbow-colored patio in the back. There are whimsical details aplenty – a jukebox, faux flowers on the ceiling, and eccentric light fixtures, with a goal of “something for everyone”. If all goes well, the Bar and Kitchen will be open for customers sometime next week.
Owners Kelly Hayes, her son Liam O’Brien, and Gary Giddens all live just blocks from where their new space is opening. Neighbors will recognize Giddens’ name and face, as he’s been a long-time bartender at High Dive and Commonwealth nearby. Hayes and Giddens met while he was bartending at High Dive.
Opening a bar of his own has been a dream of Giddens’ for some time.
“I’ve been trying to do it for a while but they all fell through for numerous reasons. Sometimes people changed their minds, sometimes the rent, sometimes the landlord. But this, just everything fell into place. There have been a lot of hassles with it, it’s not been easy, but it was just the right space,” Giddens said. Once he found it, he “suckered” his longtime friends Hayes and O’Brien into joining him, he added with a laugh.
“We’re trying to go for everything. Hopefully, there shouldn’t be anybody who’s like, ‘no they don’t have anything for me’,” Giddens said. “It’s a neighborhood bar with good beer, good wine, good cocktails, and good food. And good atmosphere.”
The backyard is slightly larger than others in the area – similar in shape to that of Blueprint, on Fifth Avenue. The bar is long, with seating for about ten to twelve people, and the space has several tables at the front for additional seating.
The food menu has been created by O’Brien and takes inspiration from his family and childhood. He grew up on Carroll Street just blocks away, and included dishes he grew up eating with relatives.
He’s starting off with a soft menu but will expand once they get comfortable in the space.
“[We’ll have] drunk munchie food, bar-type food. We’d like to do it a little better than you’re expecting,” O’Brien said.
“I also like to make things that we have connections to, so musubi is a Hawaiian thing, my uncle has been living there for the past thirty years and I’ve been lucky enough to visit him out there. The pernil buns, my stepdad is Puerto Rican. Things that I have a connection to or grew up eating that I enjoy is what I based a lot of this around.”
O’Brien has been working in restaurants since 2012, starting doing delivery and dishes for a pizzeria, and most recently working at Danny Meyers’ Daily Provisions. This will be his first time as the head of a kitchen.
The space will have 12 beers on tap, as well as rose, two cocktails, and a cold brew. Giddens says that they will also have a very international liquor program.
“I’ve got some gins from Norway and different places coming along, so hopefully we’re going to have a very international flavor,” Giddens said.
“There’s some great liquor out there from different countries that just gets forgotten.”
Hayes, who is in her last year of teaching middle school science, handles the books, organization, and other crucial aspects of the business. The flowers out front were planted by her.
O’Brien looks forward to being part of a bar like this.
“Part of why I wanted to do this is [to] give back to the neighborhood… It’ll be nice to be a place [that is] very community-oriented,” O’Brien said.
Giddens has known the neighbors for a long time and looks forward to meeting others as Gowanus Gardens’ bartender.
“They’re all welcome,” he says.
Gowanus Gardens Bar and Kitchen hopes to open on 4th Avenue next week. Hours are tentatively from 3:00 pm-2:00 am on weekdays, and from 1:00 pm-4:00 am on the weekends. They are located at 256 4th Avenue, between President and Carroll Streets.