Long time North Brooklyn staple and friendly neighborhood dive, Rosemary’s Greenpoint Tavern, will close its doors after 66 years. The closing, which will be made official on Feburary 28th of this year, is a simple product of a deal made by land-hungry developers, and the gentrification phenomena that poses a constant threat to today’s urban landscape. Named for the owner herself, as well as its original location, the tavern first opened in 1955 in Greenpoint, and was eventually moved to its convenient 188 Bedford Avenue location, where owner Rosemary Bleday, 86, is known for making frequent appearances, either tending the bar or enjoying a drink while conversing with happy patrons.
The purchasers behind the deal, RedSky Capital, have been trying to get the Tavern doors to close for years in an attempt at assembling the entire block. The bar, however, is more than just that, and actually serves as Bleday’s basement to her residence where she has lived for most of her life, raising children and creating memories, which will soon be all she has left of the building. Rosemary was relentless in her battle against these developers, and put up a constant fight, turning down offers in exchange for upholding the family business, which she inherited from her own father. But she could only fight for so long.
Fast forward to now, where the properties on either side of the Tavern are officially under RedSky ownership, leaving Rosemary with no choice but to surrender and sell the building, as its infrastructure will not hold up against the new developments, and would be unsafe to stay.
To some bar owners who have been running their ship for as long as Rosemary has, this would be considered a win, but not to her, not to her staff, who consider her to be family, and definitely not to the customers, some of whom consider the Tavern a second home. In 2010, Time Out described Bleday as “sassy” but would “cover your drink with a coaster if you stepped out for a smoke, and cheerfully fill you in on the history of the neighborhood.” Currently clad in Valentine’s Day decorations, the bar maintains an inviting atmosphere to anyone who stumbles in.
Leanne Hauser, a long time employee of the bar, was able to speak for staff and customers alike while expressing her feelings on the neighborhood’s significant loss. She described the tavern as a safe place for many, and said that “while there’s time and history that of course goes into making it a neighborhood bar, there’s so much more than that. It’s the spirit of the bar that’s alive right now, it’s the bar tenders, it’s the customers.” She says that Rosemary has forever been adamant about making each individual that walked in the door feel like they were at home, and they absolutely did.
One patron described his relationship to the bar while recounting the time when he was recovering from knee surgery, and couldn’t walk far or do much, but he could come into the Tavern and get the TLC he needed. He said that Rosemary’s was the true meaning of a pub – a public house where people from all walks of life could come in as strangers and leave as friends. Whether it was tourists or locals, regulars or first timers, everyone had a place in the bar. He says the loss is truly tragic.
As tragic and as sad as it has been, the past few months have also been a time of celebration, allowing all kinds of people that have connected to the bar to come in and pay their respects. Hauser spoke to this bright side excitedly. “What’s been kind of a light point for all of us during this sad and heavy time is that so many people have been coming in and sharing their stories with us about their magic here, their moments.” Since the news broke, one person even flew in from Arizona to soak up the last bit of that magic, and another from Seattle.
Even if you haven’t ever shared a drink at the Tavern before, it is highly encouraged for anyone to stop in and make new memories before one of the last true public houses in Williamsburg closes down. You might even get a meet and greet with Pauly the cockatoo (pictured below), who occasionally assists in running taps and pouring cocktails. No one should feel shy in commemorating the bar in its final weeks, because as Rosemary herself chronicled on the bar’s business cards, Rosemary’s Greenpoint Tavern is “Everybody’s bar Everyday.”