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Good for the farmer. Good for the chef.
Great for you. FIND OUT MORE
Great for you. FIND OUT MORE
61 Local: Creativity, Community, and Really Good Beer
There’s a brick storefront you’ve never noticed before, a plain façade with a large window and no sign. The iron doorframe has “61 Local” etched in the side, and when you walk in, you see a simple but elegant space with high ceilings and surprising warmth. The giant map on the wall shows Brooklyn and the surrounding area, and signs mark the locations of local breweries. Everyone’s drinking local beer, some people at the picnic tables in the back have cheese plates, and the mood is relaxed and fun. Who would guess that running quietly beneath this pleasant scene is someone’s quest for a better world? (And I don’t just mean one that includes more beer.)
Dave Liatti, owner of the recently opened 61 Local, is a man of singular vision. He didn’t spend his college days dreaming of opening a bar with his buddies, he didn’t work his way through a series of restaurant jobs, and he isn’t a “Yankee-hat-wearing” Brooklyn-forever type. Still, he’s been working on 61 Local, a public house serving local food and drink in Carroll Gardens, BK, for over three years, nurturing it from vision to fruition in the service of his ideals. Everything Dave does can be distilled into trying to foster three elements, which he must have listed 50 times in our 45-minute interview:
“Creativity, Community, and Collaboration.”
For Dave, everything comes down those three principles. It’s why he’s interested in small craft breweries (creativity) and why it matters that they’re local (community). It’s also why he wanted to open 61 Local, and why he calls it a “public house”. 61 Local was envisioned as a place for the community to come together and collaborate on creative work. “What your art is doesn’t matter,” Dave says, so long as you’re committed to it and open to helping each other (there’s that last word, collaboration.) The people behind 61 Local see the connection between the work of the craft brewers whose beer they serve (everyone from Barrier Brewing to Sixpoint), the designer who consulted on the space (artist Anne Mourier), the artist who embroidered their lampshades (Iviva Olenick), and the local writers who use their space for a reading called “The Folding Chair.” Dave must have mentioned 15 people who were instrumental in getting the business off the ground, from Taylor Cocalis (now of GoodFoodJobs.com) to the owner of the building. These are all people working diligently at their crafts, and in bringing 61 Local to life, they were able to use their own skills to help build a community they never could have made alone.
This can all get pretty heady, but 61 Local isn’t some exclusive highbrow clubhouse. At a basic level, it’s just a great bar with delicious food. “On the weekends it approaches a big house party,” Dave told me. “That's a good thing. People work really hard in NYC. It's also important to let loose and have some fun.” The local beers (and wines!) on tap are interesting but accessible, and the bartenders will lend their expertise without implying that you’re an idiot for not knowing more about beer. It’s the kind of place where you could bring your frat brother or your mom, have a first date or a birthday party. On a Saturday night I saw people of all ages, and while there were certainly representatives from the beard/glasses/flannel set, it didn’t look like there was a lumberjack dress code to get in. 61 Local isn’t just for foodies or locavores; it’s for the neighborhood.
Even though the food menu (overseen by Chris Munsey, formerly of Murray’s Cheese) is fancier than your typical bar snacks--Dickson’s Farmstand chicken liver mousse, cured meat selections from Salumeria Biellese, cheese plates with cheeses from Consider Bardwell and Jasper Hill-- there’s no table service. “It kills the energy,” Dave notes. In a white-tablecloth restaurant you’re encouraged to stay in your own world, and 61 Local is striving for a more interactive environment. The vibe is, in Dave’s words, “humble and inclusive, without being a free-for-all.” There’s a different between not caring about pretension and not caring about anything, and the line they draw at 61 Local is clear. Things worth caring about: craft, passion, dedication, and creativitycommunitycollaboration. Things not worth caring about: anything that gets in the way.
In the end, the goal of 61 Local isn’t to be fancy; it’s to be deliberate, purposeful, and respectful of the people whose work we’re enjoying. “I saw a disconnect between the care in the creation of these products and the environment in which they were consumed,” Dave told me. Why shouldn’t a bar put as much effort into serving the beer as the brewer put in to making it? On the other hand, they know that for a public house to succeed, it needs to appeal to the public. “The place is conceptual in design but should not be intimidating in any way. It should be a celebration of the great things coming out of our community right now. And the atmosphere should be convivial and approachable.” No matter if the average customer doesn’t see the depth of the philosophy of 61 Local when they stop by for a beer. Because the people behind the public house are so devoted, you’re going to walk away with some creativity, community, and maybe even some collaboration, whether you realize it or not.