PHOTOESSAY: Bootleg Bar in Bushwick Celebrated 4 Years of Cheap, Liver-Killing Combos

Bootleg Bar celebrated four years of serving cheap drinks in Bushwick with an all-night rager last Saturday. Neighborhood newbies and old friends alike cheered each other with tall boys of PBR and Evan Williams shots —  a five-dollar combo that hasn’t changed since the bar opened in 2014.

Bootleg Bar co-owner Booby Rich (right) with Billy Burgess (left) wearing a prop from the bar’s latest commercial

Co-owners Bobby Rich and Marek Gregorski were at the bar, located at 1438 Myrtle Ave., to share memories that stretch back over a decade. Rich bartended the East River Bar that Gregorski owns in Williamsburg, and he also co-owns Tradesmen on Bushwick Avenue. The transition from employee to business partner worked out well for both; the two were all smiles as the rows of people around Bootleg’s bar got bigger and bigger on Saturday night. 

Ken South Rock at the conclusion of their performance

MC Billy Burgess introduced bands while wearing a giant “Bootleg Fried Chicken” bucket inspired by the bar’s latest commercial: a spoof Greatest Hits compilation of oldies with the words “Bootleg Bar” in every song.

The music rocked on till 1 a.m. Afterwards I spoke to Adam Amram, drummer of Ken South Rock who has known Rich since they were barflys at another Bushwick venue, Goodbye Blue Monday. Amram told me about the man, saying that Rich is “an extremely motivated person with incredible honesty that will skin you to the bone. Bobby’s got the confidence that a 60-year-old man would have.”

I sat down with Rich and talked about his “beer and shot strategy” that keeps Bootleg’s regulars boozehounds happy and also brings in newcomers.

“If you come to this neighborhood for cheaper rent, the drinks should be cheap too,” Rich said. “Why go all the way to the Lower East Side for three-dollar beers when you can gett’em right here? I may have raised the rent in my area but I lowered the drink prices!”

Bootleg’s backyard

All images courtesy of Nicholas McManus

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