The popular Bushwick Bar, Pearl’s Social & Billy Club has set up a “velvet” rope outside its shady corner entrance on St Nicholas Ave. The rope (actually hemp) leads to a window occupied by a disinfectant-drenched staff member ready to procure a wealth of drink options for their thirsty public. It’s part of the aggressive “come-hither” strategy that sets Pearl’s apart from several other establishments offering take-out booze; she seems to be courting her public to come and fulfill, while observing the strictures placed on us by the pandemic, the “social” portion of her bar’s moniker.
Of all the bars I’ve seen do take-out in Bushwick, Pearl’s is the one most conspicuously fostering a scene, albeit one where backslaps, kisses and bro hugs – for the most part verboten – are being sheepishly pantomimed. But if you had to pick a few runners-up to Pearl’s in the bonhomie department – and, mind you, these aren’t conclusions born of exact science, but rather based on my own observations over the course of a week’s wanderings – I’d probably go with Heavy Woods, Yours Sincerely and Gold Sounds. Conveniently, all these establishments, along with Pearl’s, are within a 10-minute walk from each other, making a masked COVID bar crawl easily accomplished.
Gold Sounds and Your Sincerely, located directly opposite each other on Wilson Street, complement handily. The former is a dive bar’s dive bar whose sandwich board out front promised well drinks for $12 (16 oz.) or $7 (10 oz.) and a beer + shot for $6, among other things; the latter, alternatively, specializes in pre-batched cocktails pressurized in kegs.
On Wyckoff Avenue, Heavy Woods does brisk business in the frozen margaritas promised on their sandwich board, judging from the sizable – but loose – scrum I saw gathered there on the sidewalk, murmuring and gulping something lime green and icy from plastic cups. In addition, scrawled on paper signs next to the take-out window are multicolored advertisements for a Bloody Mary kit, draft growlers for $20, hurricanes (a boozy New Orleans classic) and a whopping pre-batched 1-liter old fashioned.
For Pearl’s owner Betsy – a sort of hospitality Muguver lashing together community togetherness out of stray bits of tequila, lime juice, beer and party favors – keeping her business open and available is an obligation that extends beyond money (nobody is making a profit, in any case) to touch on less tangible notions of belonging and shared humanity.
“It’s been so great to be able to see the faces of our Pearl’s family stop by to chat and share stories,” enthused Betsy via Instagram DM. “I have several birthday deliveries coming up this weekend and there’s some leftover helium tanks, so I put some balloons and festive tiki cups and little treats into the delivery bags when it’s a birthday.”
“And we’ve had a couple people whose weddings were cancelled and we sent them care packages. I love doing that kind of stuff.”
Pearl’s marquee items are 32oz margaritas (many flavor and spicy options), plus special cocktail kits complete with instruction cards, spritz kits, piña coladas, craft beer and natural wine (there’s a pre-order option on the bar’s Instagram account). If none of that appeals, don’t worry – the back bar is packed with a variety of bottles for every thirst.
There are several other perfectly good options for an al fresco tipple around Bushwick, even if they don’t all actively encourage sidewalk fraternizing with the same zip as Pearl’s.
Situated in such a way as to allow its inclusion in the above-mentioned hypothetical bar crawl, is The Johnson’s. In addition to booze, they churn out comfort food for pickup and delivery.
Walk or ride north from there, dart across Flushing Avenue, hang a left on Grattan Avenue, and you’ll find Pine Box Rock Shop, a drafty but colorful space whose warehouse-y vibe is in keeping with its industrial surroundings.
A bit further a field – and technically in Ridgewood, but we aren’t sticklers for geography – is the newish outpost of Queens Brewery. They serve a rotating list of beer and cocktails, as well as coffee.
Not to be left out of the booze-to-go game is the perennially popular Sea Wolf, situated in the heart of Bushwick’s graffiti nexus. On offer, in addition to the usual surf-and-turf dining options, are mainly just beer and wine; however, depending on how busy the attendant worker is, a cocktail could potentially be whipped up for those seeking a stronger whiff of ethanol in their beverage.
Finally, to the west, perched on the frontier between Bushwick and Bed Stuy, are next door neighbors Lone Wolf (no relation to Sea Wolf) and Looking Glass. $4 gets you a burrito and draft beer at the former, while its larger companion is practically giving away 16oz draft beers for $3. (They also offer $2 tacos and $5 burritos.)
This embarrassment of riches, from the standpoint of disaster relief, is just that: a little embarrassing; many businesses in the neighborhood have stayed open not because they want to, but because loans and grants promised under the aegis of the federal Pay Check Protection Program haven’t been delivered. In the closing paragraph of her Insta-missive, Betsy of Pearl’s Social Club summed up neatly the conflicted feelings felt by many proprietors.
“It’s not nearly like the business we did before, but it is keeping us afloat, the rent and bills paid. Hopefully we will get through this. I have no idea if we’ll get any of the loans I applied for, so hopefully this keeps Pearl’s alive.”
“But, it’s also been so great to be able to see the faces of our Pearl’s family stop by to chat and share stories. It brings people joy.”
Pearl’s Social & Billy Club
40 St Nicholas Ave.
Hours: Tuesday – Friday, 2 – 7 pm
50 Wyckoff Ave
Hours: Monday – Thursday, 2 – 10 pm; Friday – Sunday, 12 – 10 pm
41 Wilson Ave
Hours: Sunday – Thursday, 2 – 8pm
44 Wilson Ave.
Hours: Sunday – Thursday, 4 – 9 pm
19 Wyckoff Ave.
Hours: everyday, 12 – 8 pm
1539 Covert St.
Hours: Everyday, 7 am – 12 am
Pinebox Rock Shop
12 Grattan St.
Hours: Monday – Thursday, 3 – 730 pm; Friday – Sunday, 12 pm – 730 pm
369 Troutman St.
Hours: everyday, 1 – 10pm
Hours: everyday, 4 – 9 pm
Hours: everyday, 4 – 11 pm