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Happy hour for Teddy’s owners: Williamsburg’s oldest bar sold

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The oldest bar in Williamsburg is in new hands.

The three owners of Teddy’s Bar and Grill sold it last week, ending their nearly-three-decade claim on the more-than-a-century-old watering hole. In shopping it around, they made a point of picking a buyer who pledged to keep the classic vibe intact, they said.

“We were very eager to find an owner-operator who would cherish what was happening here and not turn it into a luxury steakhouse or an obnoxious chain,” Felice Kirby said. “We had some crazy offers from people, but we did not think those would be a smart move.”

Kirby refused to say how much they sold the business for or how much the new owners are paying in rent to her and her husband. The two still own the building and live upstairs.

Teddy’s is the last of 11 beer houses brewer Peter Doelger opened around Brooklyn in the late 1880s. It is named after a subsequent owner.

Felice Kirby and her now-husband Glen went in on the bar with their business partner, Lee Ornati, in 1987. It was not a get-rich-quick scheme, or even necessarily a get-paid scheme, Felice Kirby said.

“I did not think there was any money to be made in the community,” she said. “It was my boyfriend’s idea. I just drank at the bar.”

But the trio saw a need for a gathering place for artists recently transplanted to the neighborhood, who Kirby said were given the cold shoulder in the neighborhood. It was largely Puerto Rican and the artists coming in were young, and mostly white. Kirby called some of the treatment racist.

“There was a lot of racism, or people would just give you the evil eye if they did not know you,” she said. “We thought there should be a welcoming venue.”

Upon buying the bar, the team immediately set out to restore it to its former glory by uncovering the original woodwork, bar fixtures, and tin ceiling, Kirby said.

They also started booking jazz acts and selling a new-to-the-scene beer called Brooklyn Brewery, nine years before its first drops were brewed in Brooklyn. Even stocking that brand — now a baseline at borough bars — was a bold move in those days.

“It was radical and revolutionary at the time to be selling anything other than Schlitz or Coors Light,” Kirby said.

Details on what to expect from the latest chapter of the bar’s long run were not immediately forthcoming, as the new owners did not return calls for comment.

Reach reporter Danielle Furfaro at dfurfaro@cnglocal.com or by calling (718) 260–2511. Follow her at twitter.com/DanielleFurfaro.
Updated 10:17 pm, July 9, 2018
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Reasonable discourse

John Wasserman from Prospect Heights says:
In a way, this makes your own John Wasserman a little sad. Unfortunately, there are other things in the world to look forwatd to. I see this as both a blessing and a curse. I don't want to seem like a know-it-all, but surely you are familiar with the ghost(s) that has (have) been haunting this establishment for many, many decades. I'm sure that I don't have to tell you of the "strange" events that have been occuring at this "Teddy's" over the years. I'm glad that I don't, and that you know all about it.
Here's thanking you in advance for pardoning the interruption.
John Wasserman
Feb. 23, 2015, 12:20 pm
Ethan Pettit from Park Slope says:
I first walked into that bar in 1984. There was a big Confederate flag on the wall. Didn't go back until Felice and Glenn bought the place in 87. There are no words to express my gratitude for what these guys did for the neighborhood. Gentrification notwithstanding, it sure beats the Jim Crow era of the old Northside. But of course, it is human nature to romanticize the past and not appreciate the good things we have today. I introduced my cousin Mike Lattimore to Teddy's, and soon he was performing there regularly with the Shorty Jackson Band. In 1991 I appeared in New York Magazine in a red cocktail dress, at the bar, putting the make on some guy old enough to be my grandfather. What was I thinking! Dems was da daze! Best of luck to Glenn and Felice, on their well-earned break from the day-to-day business of running Williamsburg's premier establishment and the cornerstone of an amazing urban phenomenon! Here's a link to a show we did at Teddy's a few years ago.

https://www.facebook.com/media/set/?set=a.10151128693407362.433729.655962361&type=1&l=ceea9e2122
Feb. 23, 2015, 3:31 pm
Roma says:
The oppressed white artist. The economic insecurity wrought by the daring move to bring craft beer to a new class of better people. The blatant racism at the hands Puerto Ricans. The struggle is real.
Feb. 24, 2015, 8:26 am
Ex-New Yorker says:
I read articles like this one about yuppies (who can afford ridiculously high rents), claiming to be victims, gentrifying yet another neighborhood.
Makes me remember why I left. Bet you get your pizza at Dominos.

You ruined New York City. Congratulations.
Nov. 28, 2017, 12:07 am

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