Vacations is the latest bar to occupy the ever-changing rooftop space on Starr Street, previously home to Runaway Roof and, before then, Gemelli. As it happens, this version is decorated with a comfortable familiarity. Mundane art and the kind of muted colors generally reserved for beachside motel hallways open to a 5,000 square-foot black and white checkered patio that presents the same distant view of the Manhattan skyline that you might remember from those other bars. But the foggy feeling of familiarity is also no accident, as the latest, and aptly named, self-service bar aspires to deliver on a concept that animates its latest co-owners, Annie and Andy Shaner: A vacation for those who cannot get away.
“We know how sweet and precious a drink with a tiny umbrella can be,” Annie told me in an interview. The Shaners are developing this version of the rooftop spot with a local company called Vantage Point Hospitality – an ambitious and slowly growing collection of random businesses that are run by Raffaello Van Couten and Devin Schuck and that currently includes Claudia’s in Bushwick, Dolly’s Swing and Dive in Williamsburg and a coffee importer brand called Eleva, which also runs a coffee shop in Greenpoint.
Distressed blue walls, worn-in brass fixtures, red leather stools and emerald green tiles cover the back bar and floors of Vantage’s latest endeavor. A creative director that Vantage hired, Teresa Brown, says she traversed New York state and beyond to collect the pieces of decor that decorate the place. The place’s bathroom, for instance, is now decoupaged with vacation postcards.
“We hit a bit of an online sale jackpot with a big jumbo pack from Florida,” Annie adds. “We went through stacks and stacks and stacks.”
Annie says she got her start as a bartender at a since-shuttered Park Slope bar called Mission Dolores, followed by Legacy Records, a new pricey Italian spot at Hudson Yards. More recently, she started bartending locally at Abe’s Pagoda. Before Andy turned to the neighborhood, he mostly worked in the East Village and Midtown, putting in the years at spots like Goodnight Sonny, La Fonda Del Sol and the also-closed Maysville.
Among the drinks they’re making at Vacations, there’s the Where We Met, which mixes together bourbon, grapefruit juice and cinnamon honey. Annie says it riffs off a cocktail she remembers drinking at the aforementioned Maysville, where the pair happened to first meet. Somewhat consequently, it was also where they met Van Couten and Schuck. More personal stories abound on the drink list. Another is called the Proposal, a sweet daiquiri that features pineapple rum, lime and simple syrup. If you haven’t guessed, Annie says it is the cocktail that Andy made her when he proposed.
Vacations’ food menu skews slightly toward the sea – there’s a shrimp cocktail, smoked fish dip and, even, fish and chips. But there’s a lot of ordinary bar fare too, from a simple burger to papas bravas, the Spanish take on home fries. There’s also some dishes that Andy says he grew up eating, like a chicken pizza steak, made with chopped chicken, marinara, provolone and slapped on a hoagie. Annie describes it as a mid-Atlantic answer to the chicken parm.
Vacations is located at 321 Starr Street and the rooftop bar’s hours are 4pm to 2am Monday through Friday and 2pm to 2am Saturday and Sunday. There’s also a “Happy Hour” that promises $1 off everything and lasts from 4pm to 7pm, Monday through Thursday. You can follow Vacations on Instagram to keep up with their hours.
Top image is the bar’s “Honeymoon” cocktail, taken by Elise Nikolaisen for Bushwick Daily.
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