Public Records, a new café, bar and music venue, quietly opened in Gowanus in late March. It’s the latest “listening bar” to take New York by storm, with a specific focus on healthier nightlife rituals.
The burgeoning listening bar trend is big in Japan, where music is as much of a bar’s focus as drinking. In 2017, Tokyo Record Bar, an homage to the style, opened a location in the West Village, where guests help curate what vinyls spin alongside a seven-course izakaya tasting menu. At Elsewhere, the sprawling, multi-floor performance space in Bushwick, Mission Chinese runs the downstairs food program. Dekalb Market recently opened Understudy, a “speakeasy style” craft cocktail bar that highlights the shopping center’s food court.
Unlike neighborhoods that already have a range of dedicated performance spaces (looking at you, Bushwick), Public Records hopes to expand Brooklyn’s experimental music venue scene with a hi-fi record bar showcasing a rare records collection, “the sound room,” which highlights live acts and DJs (led by founding partner Francis Harris), a café and magazine-cum-snack shop by IMPORT.
“In addition to the acoustic integrity and a space that competes on a global scale in terms of sonic immersion, we wanted to create a space where music and hospitality weren’t mutually exclusive,” says Shane Davis, creative director at Public Records and founder of hospitality strategy firm Whitebox Collective.
Located in the former site of the ASPCA headquarters, the beverage program is run by Erik VanderWal, a Mercer Kitchen alum, and will include cocktails with a focus on low ABV and nonalcoholic drinks, as well as sake and vermouth on tap, hoping to make the nightlife scene more accessible to everyone, without the pressure from alcohol-fueled fun as the only entry point. There’s a tequila, curaçao, manzanilla, fennel and mango cocktail as well as one with mezcal, melon, Aperol, cucumber and citrus. Nonalcoholic options include a blood orange celery soda; coconut water with chamomile; almond milk with lavender Himalayan pink salt and agave; beet, orange, mint, white pepper; red bell pepper, cayenne, lime, pineapple and black pepper.
The entirely vegan food program will roll out later this month and is the vision of Henry Rich of Metta, Rucola, June and the Ridgewood nightlife spot Nowadays. It’s also working in tandem with a commercial kitchen Rich is opening next door.
An all-day destination, in the morning, the menu will include dishes like stone bread with lingonberry jam and tahini, coconut yogurt with hemp, mushroom broth, sandwiches and ginger pear pastry. At night you might find turmeric curry popcorn, turnips with romesco, charred broccoli with tahini pine nuts. “We want people to enjoy music daily and nightly—and we want people to have an option to not put something bad in their bodies while they’re doing it,” says Davis.