An open letter to the new owner of Waterfront Ale House in Brooklyn

To: Antonio Gomez, new owner of the Waterfront Ale House in Brooklyn
From: Colleen Newvine, a patron who lives in the neighborhood

Waterfront Alehouse in Brooklyn has a new owner after 25 years.

Waterfront Alehouse in Brooklyn has a new owner after 25 years.

Dear Antonio,

You recently took ownership of an institution in our neighborhood and many of us are holding our breath to see what you do with it.

I haven’t been going to the Waterfront for two decades like some of the devoted regulars we know. We’ve only lived in Brooklyn about five years so we’re comparative newcomers to the neighborhood and the bar you bought. We spent our first several years as New Yorkers enjoying the exploration and discovery of new places, rather than returning over and over to a known one.

Since we’ve settled in and come to appreciate Waterfront’s deep roots, we’ve met a crowd of smart, fun, friendly people who’ve known each other for years and for whom this is not just a bar but a community center. They vacation together, they spend holidays together, they support each other through good and bad times.

Waterfront photo by Geoff Lewis.Clarence

Clarence was one of our favorite waiters, and he always made us feel like we were his favorite customers.

The first Friday night after the sale was announced was like a rowdy, drunk wake. Friends and strangers hugged, took photos and reminisced about how long they’d been coming to this place. The last Friday before the bar closed, I sobbed on the shoulder of our favorite bartender.

We have no shortage of bars and restaurants available to us within just a few blocks, so if you decide to make big changes, no one will go hungry or thirsty. What would be difficult to replace, though, is the warmth of friendly, familiar faces and the continuity of a place that’s bucked the fancy-fication of Brooklyn.

I grew up around bars. My mom and my aunt both worked as bartenders, and one of my earliest memories is the band at the bowling alley where my mom tended bar playing me Happy Birthday. When my mom died, she instructed me to cut a check to her local for an open-bar after party following her funeral. Friends and acquaintances stopped by to remember my mom in a way that felt truer to her than lunch in her church’s gym.

Alex was our other favorite waiter at Waterfront.  Photo by Geoffrey Adam Lewis

Alex was our other favorite waiter at Waterfront.
Photo by Geoffrey Adam Lewis

That kind of emotional connection comes from customers treating a place as theirs. That’s how the Waterfront regulars feel about your new place.

In our neighborhood lately, it seems everything is changing. Sample closed the same day as Waterfront. Last Exit, which used to be in Waterfront’s original location, recently closed. Ceol closed. Moxie Spot closed. Downtown Bar and Grill closed. You know what it’s like to have soaring rents displace someplace you love.

We would love to keep our gathering spot and the staff we love there.

New York Times’ man in the liquor-soaked trenches. Author of The Old-Fashioned.

Pete’s Waterfront Alehouse has 1 of best bar staffs in Bklyn (incl. Cory Hill). If new owner smart, he’ll keep ’em.

Every business has room for improvement and it makes sense that you might come in with ideas to boost sales. We hear you’re going to fix the place up while it’s closed and add pizza.

Dmitri did it all -- he bartended and he sang in the Black Coffee Blues Band, which played Waterfront regularly. Photo by Geoffrey Adam Lewis

Dimitri did it all — he bartended and he sang in the Black Coffee Blues Band, which played Waterfront regularly.
Photo by Geoffrey Adam Lewis

Just down the street, we already have Luzzo and Table 87 for pizza, and going a bit farther, there’s Sottocasa, Sam’s, Lucali and many more. We’re loaded with pizza, sushi, nail salons and banks.

What we don’t have is another place with where we’ll find our community, and that starts with the staff. My understanding is employees can re-interview for their jobs but that they haven’t yet heard from you. They have bills to pay so it’s hard to imagine they can afford to wait for weeks of uncertainty.

In addition to having acquired a restaurant space and a smoker, I would ask you to think of the staff and the regulars as part of the package. I think many business owners try for years to build the kind of loyalty Waterfront already has.

Treat us like you value and welcome us and you won’t have to try too hard to fill your new business. Let the regulars be your steady source of revenue while you build on an already-strong foundation.

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Categories: lifestyle

7 replies

  1. I’m a Brit and reasonably regular visitor to NYC and over past two years have raved about this bar as one of my all time favourites – anywhere! Haven’t been to NY since October and was so, so sad today to walk tired and jetlagged (midnight London time) to treat myself after flight to a great beer (or two), some simple well-cooked food and the friendliest bar staff and waiters to discover this place has shut down. Please tell me that it will reopen and with the same faces and welcoming spirit!

  2. Well said Colleen. I agree wholeheartedly.

  3. Well said Colleen.

  4. Best thing he could do would be to restore the quality of the BBQ, which had gone down considerably since the previous chef was laid off.

  5. Well said, Colleen.

    Mr. Gomez, if you’re reading this, she’s hit the nail on the head. The staff is a huge part of what keeps the regulars coming in, and those regulars will give your restaurant an enormous boost.

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