Alan Harding opened Old Pioneer Beer Hall in Red Hook (which he endearingly calls “Hootersville”) because “the rent was so low it would be ridiculous not to.” The bar is a good 25-minute walk from the closest subway, and surrounded by enough abandoned warehouses and defunct auto repair shops to make your hipster-hyper friend feel OK about herself—at least for the night. Old Pioneer serves Jever (with a little sign for good pronunciation: “yay-ver”) and Gaffel Kölsch ($5) on tap and features a large backyard for horseshoes and movie screenings, but only ones that are adequately esoteric (coming this spring: Knife in the Water and Triumph of the Will). Honing in on the middle-of-nowhere aesthetic, Harding adorned the place in garbage sale kitsch—namely, tins of Jiffy cornmeal and someone else’s graduation photos. Little tablets of “rules!” for good behavior are posted on almost every wall of the bar: “No sloppery,” “Do not help yourself to the food,” “No spitting,” and of course, “Have fun!” Too bad the motherly morsels of wisdom are irrelevant when you really need them—hiking back to the train, past two expressways and about 10 blocks of abandoned buildings not yet converted into art studios.
This article from the Village Voice Archive was posted on February 22, 2005