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STATE OF THE UNION

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This weekend, you could be one of hundreds of New Yorkers who are fine-tuning their motor skills with a bocce ball in one hand and a beer in the other, sharpening their minds by sipping on a martini while reading Voltaire, or just plain head-banging to some good tunes.

At the newly opened Union Hall in Park Slope, there is something for every bar-goer, with few exceptions. This hip watering hole adds a new dimension to the bar scene in Brooklyn, said Michelle Ferrara, a Union Hall bartender.

"The neighborhood has been waiting for something like this for a long time," Ferrara told GO Brooklyn. "There is something here for everyone, and so far the appeal has been far and wide. We get all kinds of people coming in here. It’s the most exciting thing I’ve ever been a part of."

Walking into Union Hall, which opened last month, is an experience on its own. As soon as you enter, there is a bar on the right side, with a dark mahogany canopy, 12 beers on tap and a menu featuring comfort food prepared in the downstairs kitchen.

There is a sprawling space around the bar, with numerous seating areas, an outdoor patio, a library nook with floor-to-ceiling bookcases, and don’t forget the two indoor, 38-foot-long, dirt-surfaced bocce courts.

Owner Jim Carden said that bocce was his bar game of choice, instead of the more traditional pool tables and dartboards, because it’s a sport that is fun, easy to learn, and anyone can play.

"Now, it’s entirely possible for anyone to come out to the bar and plan for a night’s worth of activities, something that other bars don’t provide," said Carden, who also owns Floyd, NY in Brooklyn Heights. "You can have a quiet time at the library study area, or get the competitive juices flowing at the bocce courts, which have been known to get a little rowdy. It’s all about having fun, though."

Carden, who opened Union Hall on July 9 with partners Andy Templer and Sean Neill, said that perhaps the biggest draw to his bar is the performance venue downstairs. Downstairs at Union Hall has standing room for over 100 people, all of whom have a great view of the 10-by-12-foot stage.

At Union Hall’s first round of shows held the weekend of Aug. 4, there were packed houses downstairs every night, with the biggest draw being the Los Angeles-area indie rock band Silversun Pickups who played a sold-out show on Aug. 7, said Carden.

There is at least one indie rock performance every weekend, with a cover charge ranging from $7 to $12. On Aug. 19, Levy will perform, and the Inlets and Sufjan Stevens’ guitarist Casey Dienel will play a set on Tuesday, Aug. 22. On Aug. 24, Dave Derby will rock out, followed by Rosewood Thieves playing with Sonny Oaks on Aug. 25.

In addition to the music, there are other special performances at the Union Hall, ranging from the expected (comedy) to wildly unusual: Science Night.

Every other Sunday there is a comedy night with Eugene Merman and Friends. Aug. 20 will feature Boerum Hill comedian Michael Showalter, who has appeared on Comedy Central, written, directed and starred in 2005’s "The Baxter," and co-wrote the 2000 movie "Wet Hot American Summer." (Comedy nights have a $7 cover charge.)

The first Wednesday of every month, beginning Sept. 6, will be Union Hall’s Science Night, which will feature local scientists demonstrating their experiments and other quirky inventions and explaining what they mean to the public, said Ferrara.

With all of the younger people moving into the Park Slope neighborhood, the eclectic and exciting aspects of Union Hall are sure to attract many from the area and Ferrara said it has already proven to be popular among locals and those outside of the neighborhood.

"I was working here one Wednesday night, shortly after we opened, and I was really shocked at the amount of people who were there until really late on a night in the middle of the week," said Ferrara. "I was like, ’What do these people do?’ I think it has a lot to do with the fact that we have covered all our bases, and people are just having a good time taking it all in all night long."

 

Union Hall is located at 702 Union St. at Fifth Avenue in Park Slope. The performance venue, Downstairs at Union Hall, will present Levy on Aug. 19 at 8 pm, comedian Eugene Merman and Friends featuring Michael Showalter on Aug. 20 at 8 pm, Inlets and Casey Dienel on Aug. 22 at 7 pm, Dave Derby on Aug. 24 at 7 pm, Rosewood Thieves and Sonny Oaks on Aug. 25 at 8 pm. Cover charges range from $7 to $12. Science Night is Sept. 6. For more information, call (718) 638-4400 or visit Union Hall’s Web site at www.unionhallny.com.

Updated 4:00 pm, November 10, 2010
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