From the outside, Excess Club looks anything
Housed in a modest, three-story, aluminum-sided row house, deep in the part of Greenpoint that remains immune to the spillover from ultra-hip Williamsburg, this neighborhood bar serves as a cultural center to the multiethnic area.
Inspired by the other Polish discos in the area, Europa, Exit and Episode, owners Stanley Goracy, 49, and Andre Zdrok, 30, wanted a name that would be a variation on that letter-E theme, but one that would communicate to residents how Excess is different.
"We’re more than just a bar," said Goracy, a Polish-born journalist. "We’re the only lounge in the Greenpoint area."
Sandwiched between Monsignor McGolrick Park and the Brooklyn-Queens Expressway, this section of Greenpoint still feels like a small town. Signs are often printed in Polish, and small businesses like Ida’s Sweet Shop or Obuwia Shoe Repair line quiet Driggs Avenue. But inside Excess Club, the young folks from the neighborhood congregate for a variety of cultural events.
The 100-person-capacity club has a front bar and back room, as well as a back patio ("Perfect for smokers," said Zdrok), and they offer programs each night that cater to the diverse makeup of the neighborhood.
Monday nights, Excess offers film screenings, featuring documentaries and narrative films with Polish themes, in the lounge area. Wednesdays they play hip-hop, and every other Thursday the club is home to Polish-American artists, who decorate the walls with photographs or paintings. On Fridays, Excess hosts live bands, and on Saturdays, they have DJs who play everything from salsa to ’80s pop. Sunday nights they often play Polish pop.
"We are in the area where Polish and Latinos live together," said Goracy. "We try to accommodate and have something for all those people from different backgrounds."
They’ve added another feature to their roster, a regular appearance by the reggae band One Tree, who perform the third Friday of every month. If reggae seems an unlikely choice to bridge Polish and Latino cultures, guess again.
"When I have some kind of band from Williamsburg, guys playing rock ’n’ roll, Polish people don’t get it. Latinos don’t either," said Zdrock. "Music is universal, it’s in all cultures but reggae music speaks to everyone. "
The name One Tree comes from the notion that reggae blends an assortment of styles: one tree, many branches. And One Tree draws from each of reggae’s subgenres, including ska, rock steady, roots and dancehall. The band is itself an ethnic crossover, including a Nigerian drummer, a keyboardist from St. Croix, and a Jewish bassist from Long Island, so it’s a perfect match for the mission of Excess Club.
"The band has seven people with different backgrounds, playing in a Polish club. Half of the customers are Latino, half are Polish," said Zdrok. "All the groups were present and everybody had fun."
"Half of the people were stunned and captivated. Some others were grooving," said bandleader David Suskin, 35, about their first performance at Excess. "I like playing at Club Excess in particular. I like the setting."
The club is painted in deep tomato reds, with red leather couches and fish tank lights. The art deco front bar is a remnant of the club’s former incarnation as an Irish pub.
"The decoration was done by two graduates from the Polish Academy of Fine Arts in Krakow," Goracy said proudly. "We wanted it to be as attractive as the places in Williamsburg and other places in Greenpoint."
But while it may look as good as those other clubs, Excess has much more of a neighborhood feel, and their programming is more attuned to the needs of their customers. They even offer special Polish drinks, like Okocim beer, Zubrowka (vodka mixed with apple juice), and a "Wild Dog" cocktail: raspberry vodka mixed with Tabasco sauce.
Goracy and Zdrok opened Excess in late July, hoping to bridge the dominant ethnicities in this part of Greenpoint, as well as to compete with some of Williamsburg’s hottest venues like Pete’s Candy Store or Galapagos. Zdrok, who works in finance, was once a bartender, and Goracy has owned his own advertising agency and worked in public relations.
"It’s a new experience for us as the owners of the bar, but we know what we’re doing," said Goracy.
It shows. The crowd is a blend of locals, but they draw bargoers from everywhere.
"We have people coming from Manhattan and different boroughs," said Goracy. "And from Long Island, South Brooklyn and Queens. "
While their regulars are mostly Polish and Latino, Goracy finds commonality among all his patrons.
As he said, "We’re all Americans here."
Excess Club is located at 37 Driggs Ave. at Sutton Street in Greenpoint. The next One Tree performance is Nov. 21 at 9:30 pm. $7 cover charge. For more information, call (718) 389-2449 or visit the Web site at www.excessclub.com.