The day the music died: Williamsburg’s Black Betty to close

The Brooklyn Paper
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The influential Williamsburg music venue Black Betty is closing on a blue note.

When the Metropolitan Avenue club and eatery opened its doors a decade ago, it was one of the first establishments in Williamsburg to cater to the neighborhood’s burgeoning artist community. And when it closes on June 15, it will be among the first of North Brooklyn’s early gentrifiers to be driven out of the neighborhood.

Black Betty owners, staff, and patrons claim that the closing of the venue — which will shut down after a blow-out party featuring Rev. Vince Anderson and his Love Choir — marks the end of an era for the neighborhood the club helped transform into a cultural destination.

“We were definitely the first of a new breed of Williamsburg bars and performance places — and I don’t see something truly replacing Black Betty,” said co-owner Bud Schmeling, whose intimate concert venue and attached Middle Eastern restaurant has drawn acts including Sharon Jones and the Dap Kings and Antibalas for free shows.

Schmeling claims he’ll have to close because his landlord reneged on an agreement and offered the 10-year-old venue to other tenants behind his back — even though Schmeling and his partner Sandy Glover had already paid a $35,000 fee and agreed to increase their monthly rent from $2,700 to $5,000.

But landlord Pasquale Pescatore claims he gave the owners a chance to renegotiate their lease with the increased rents — but they were too slow to respond.

Pescatore told The Brooklyn Paper that he only contacted other renters after the owners of Black Betty went out of touch for about three weeks during lease negotiations.

“I negotiated first with Bud, then I negotiated with these people when they weren’t interested,” said Pescatore, who claimed that the owners of Black Betty also frequently paid their rent checks late.

Pescatore noted that the new renters have similar plans for the venue. He promised to reimburse Schmeling and Glover for their $35,000 fee.

North Brooklyn concert-goers say the music scene in Williamsburg will be a little bit quieter — and a little lamer — once Black Betty closes.

“That place means a lot to the neighborho­od,” said Paul Mahajan, whose rock band, Geezer on Diesel, played the venue on May 19. “This place feels like it’s made for a different era of Williamsbu­rg.”

Rev. Vince Anderson and His Love Choir will play the final concert at Black Betty [366 Metropolitan Ave. at Havemeyer Street in Williamsburg, (718) 599-0243] on June 15.

Updated 5:13 pm, July 9, 2018
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Reasonable discourse

em from williamsburg says:
this is awful -- not just for the music, but for the great paella and the happy hour mojitos. i've lived in the neighborhood 6 years and black betty was one of my favorite places.
May 22, 2009, 11:57 am
Goyo from Los Sures says:
We will miss Black Betty. I'm sure Bud will meet another girl in Williamsburg and a better landlord. Bud if you build it they will come.
May 25, 2009, 12:49 am
em from Manhattan says:
Johnny is the best bar tender everrrrr. RIP Black Betty.
May 25, 2009, 3:58 pm
ac from montrose ave says:
what a shame, easily our favorite spot on a saturday late night.
May 25, 2009, 5:52 pm
Jon on Havemeyer from Williamsburg says:
I can't believe it; this place is the CBGB's of the neighborhood. Great music, cool people, no cover, open 7 nights a week.

We lost Galapagos last year and now Black Betty. Hey you yuppies and Euro-trash turning the neighborhood into another SOHO - the prices in Manhattan are falling fast. Go back there, please!!!
May 29, 2009, 5:33 am
Cute little girl in pigtails from Everywhere says:
Shame on you Pasquale Pescatore. You're a bad bad man!
June 14, 2009, 12:04 pm
Vic Martino from Williamsburg says:
I live in a building owned by this Pasquale Pescatore that is right next door to where Black Betty was. I have been living in this building since before Mr. Pescatore bought the building from the previous owner who my family knew very well. I have been living here since before Black Betty it use to be a place called The Highway Lounge owned by the then owner of my building Jimmy Napoli. This is actually a rent stabilized building and Mr. Pescatore has been over charging my family since the previous owner Mr. Napoli died who had made Mr. Pescatore promise never to raise our rent. Well as soon as Mr. Napoli died the promise died as well. Mr. Pescatore has been over charging us since. My mom passed away in 97 and my brother passed away Aug 2009. Mr. Pescatore is trying to have me evicted claiming I have not been living here as long as I have claiming I moved in after my brother died. Well I have plenty of proof that I have been living here since way before he bought the building from Mr. Napoli. And I even had my rent lowered legally and I will be filing for an over charge. Mr. Napoli's sons are more than willing to back me up on the fact that I have been residing where I now reside for as long as I have been. I am in the process of going back and forth to court over this matter. I made the mistake of having called the Pescatore residence when the eviction threats first started to try and work out a deal and fend off any illegal eviction procedures and had an argument over the phone with Pasquale's wife Florence who claims I made threats and has an order of protection against me and I am also going to court now for harassment charges! They are just asking for me to bring up things they are going to wish were never brought up! I know more about them then they could imagine. If they do not back off they are going to regret their greed! They are currently causing me much stress! I would like to give much kiddos to one Debra Medina from Los Sores here in Williamsburg Brooklyn as she is a very good rent advocate to have on your side. Thank you Miss Medina. Yours truly Vic Martino.
Jan. 28, 2010, 2:43 am
Sal from Middle Village Queens says:
Pat Pescatore and his wife Flo are two greedy lowlifes with too much money from unsavory dealings and doings. I have had problems dealing with them as well that I will not go into now because I intend to hit them where it hurts most and that is financially and I do not want to give them a heads up if they should see this. But beware these people are ruthless and have no scruples. They can never have enough money and do not care how they get it or who they screw over in the process. Their son Michael is currently in prison for running and owning a business that profited from stealing cars. The apple dos not fall far from the tree as the saying goes. This whole family should be sent to prison for good.
Jan. 28, 2010, 4:15 pm
Vic Martino from Williamsburg says:
I Vito Picicci aka Vic Martino want to go on record here as stating if anything happens to me it most likely is related to the situation I am having with the owners of 85 Haveameyer Street Pasquale and Florence Pescatore in Williamsburg Brooklyn next to where black Betty use to be. I have been going back and forth to court with their lawyer as they are trying to have me evicted from my apartment that I lived in since before they bought the place. I got a threatning phone call today May 17 at 5PM the same day we were in court again earlier. I filed a police report and talked with some people regarding this matter. I just wanted to post this information on line as well. They are not going to scare me off as I am standing my ground. And I am not moving anytime soon.
May 17, 2010, 11:38 pm

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