Bourbon joint on the rocks! LeNell’s to close...really

The Brooklyn Paper
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LeNell’s, the Red Hook liquor store with more kick than downhome moonshine, will close on Feb. 21, but could possibly reopen near its Van Brunt Street location soon, its owner told The Brooklyn Paper.

The quirky five-year-old Red Hook store, run by LeNell Smothers, has been on the rocks since last May, when her lease expired, her ceiling collapsed and, finally, a relocation deal turned into sour mash.

The imminent closing — and hope of a new location — has Brooklyn bourbon buffs buzzing.

“For a long time, there was no place for the cocktail geeks of the world to go,” said Matt DeVriendt, co-owner of the Jakewalk, a bar with a sophisticated drinks menu on Smith Street. “[LeNell’s] is pretty much the only place to send them. She’s well connected with Kentucky bourbons, and her selection of bitters and knowledge is hard to match.”

Smothers made it almost as fun to shop for booze as it is to drink it. Almost.

“It’s just always been a passion of mine,” Smothers said when asked about her inspiration for a store focusing on independent distillers (especially those that put cats or dogs on their labels or are owned by women).

Her impending closure spurred rumors across the blogosphere that she was uprooting herself to tend bar in London or Amsterdam.

“Ugh, these bloggers can be incredibly irresponsi­ble,” she said.

But for patrons who call the store, her updated message on the answering machine has a touch of her Southern charm, too.

“While we’re negotiating a new space, our business hours are a bit more sporadic. … We have lost our lease, we have not lost our hope.”

She said she’s searched for a new space in Red Hook, but liquor regulations complicate the process.

“I get this question a million times: ‘Why can’t you move into this space or that space.’ But it’s either too close to a school or the other liquor store [on Van Brunt Street] or the landlord doesn’t want to enter into a long-term lease.”

Still, Smothers agreed that the nosiness of bloggers, reporters and neighbors attested to the popularity and importance of her store.

“I am flattered for that, but I’m frustrated not having a secure new location to announce,” she said.

LeNell’s [416 Van Brunt St, between Coffey and Van Dyke streets, (718) 360-0838]. For now.

Updated 5:11 pm, July 9, 2018
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Reasonable discourse

Vivi from Red Hook says:
I hope she stays in Red Hook. The school regulation seems so outdated. Is there really fear that kids from from the nearby school will get their liguor from LeNell's? They have excellent taste if they do!
Feb. 3, 2009, 2:04 pm
S from Park Slope says:
I would be a real shame - and a great loss - if LeNell's were to close for good. The shop is a great resource for those of us who like good quality liquor. It's also an excellent way to help keep spending money locally!
Feb. 3, 2009, 3:52 pm
Pacholo from Red Hook says:
It's more probable for the kids to get their liquor from their parents stash than from a legal liquor joint in Red Hook.
Feb. 3, 2009, 5:40 pm
JDo from carroll gardens says:
LeNell's is a great resource for fantastic whiskeys and new wines...AND it's in a neighborhood with not a lot of resources at all. I can't tell you how many great bottles and producers I've been turned on to at this shop.

I'll follow her to wherever she next hangs her shingle. Hopefully, she'll find a new spot sooner rather than later.
Feb. 6, 2009, 1:01 pm

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