The email arrived, alluring and frightening: Go to the Navy Yard Cocktail Lounge on Flushing Avenue. Scary bar with strippers.
Isnt this bar closed? I replied. Whenever I passed this grubby, graffiti-scrawled bunker, its upper windows bricked over, located near both a Talmudic school and poultry-killing operation, the front door was shackled. Happy hour is from 7 to 9. Go.
Following the directive one windy evening, I discover beer neon aglow in the blacked-out window. A large sidewalk sign reads bar open, while the door conversely states members only. But like my mama told me, whats inside counts most. And inside the Navy Yard Lounge is, quite possibly, NYCs safest, skuzziest dive. A bank of six security TVs keep tabs on the street scene, while a TV-camera combo tracks your face as you enter.
Im coming here when zombies attack, my drinking companion says. He sits at the elbow-worn bar. You cant get much safer.
Ill say. Security cameras patrol the room, while the L-shaped bathroom offers a low-tech preventative measure. The angled mirror behind the toilet lets you see anyoneneer-do-wells or the undeadsneak up behind you. Now you can pee in paranoid peace.
The rest of the bar hits every divey note: pool table, yellowing Brooklyn Dodgers memorabilia, video poker machines and, umm, a raised black stage (reportedly decommissioned). Two deflated kiddie pools are crumpled in a corner. That was for a wet T-shirt contest, says Mystique, the cute, sassy bartender. The men shot me with water guns everywhere.
Mystique is chatty and cheerily flighty. She pours us severe mixed drinks ($3 during happy hour) served in miniscule plastic cups. Theyre inebriating, but missing one crucial ingredient.
Uh, could we have some ice? I ask.
And I was doing so well, she giggles, dropping ice cubes into our drinks and a handful of lunchbox-size bags of Cheez Doodles and Doritos (stored in Tupperware beneath the bar) onto the bar. The junk snacks distract us from the burly, taciturn men shooting pool and pointed glances in our direction. But these gents also enjoy a playful side; a bulletin board features Polaroids of these patrons with shit-eating grins and their paws on scantily-clad ladies wearing Santa hats.
This is no seaman bar; its a semen bar.
When happy hour dies, drink prices soar two bucks. As if on cue, we watch young ladies sashay into the lounge (through the black-and-white security cameras, of course). The women, along with Mystique, retreat to changing rooms. They return in floss-thin outfits that render imaginations impotent.
Hey, guys, Mystique says, transformed by skimpy, baby-blue undergarments from drink slinger to sexpot. I try not to look at her ample bosom, and instead train my eyes on my drink. Boy, ice is interesting!
Other ladies gab with the guy bargoers; their scowls have expired, eyes as wide as dinner plates. They slide dollar-bills into tight crevices. I need to slide out the door. Im no prude, but I am a cheap bastard. And I understand fleshs ability to make a scary bar too friendly.
We have to go, umm, somewhere else, I stammer.
Then Ill see you soon, Mystique lies. She hugs us goodbye and, courtesy of my fellow drinker, receives a $3 parting gift wedged where few dare tread.
Perceived Scariness (on a scale of 1 to 10): 8 Actual Scariness: 6 (during happy hour); 9 (during bikini time) Summary: Girls beware; guys, bring dollar bills.
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Navy Yard Cocktail Lounge 200 Flushing Ave. (at Washington Ave.), Bklyn No phone