Marek Chatrny and his partners haven’t yet opened their first beer hall and restaurant, but already they’re plotting an international chain. “We’d like to open a global chain of branded beer halls,” Chatrny, a Czech native whose professional roots are on Wall Street and in a Central European real estate fund, says. “There are chains in other areas — Starbucks, McDonalds — but there are very few beer-focused restaurant chains. There’s one in the southern United States, but it’s more suburban — we want to focus on a more urban place where we could place our restaurant in more historical setting.” He and his partners would also like to focus on the centuries-old Central European beer tradition and celebrate brews from the Czech Republic, Slovakia, Austria, and Germany. And they’ll debut their first location this winter when they open Bierocracy (12-23 Jackson Avenue) in Long Island City.
In that address — and in addresses that follow — Chatrny and his partners will build the space around community tables and a bar. “We want people to be able to sit together just like is done customarily in European beer halls,” Chatrny explains. He cites New York City bars like Radegast and Houston Hall as examples of how that’s been translated here in the States.
But while many U.S. beer halls then install dozens of taps, Bierocracy will keep pours simpler. “We don’t want to have too many beers on tap,” says the owner. “We’ll have about 12 or 13 to make sure that the product offering doesn’t get confusing. When people are offered 30 or 40 beers, it’s hard to choose, and the beer gets stale because it doesn’t get poured that often, and the staff can’t describe it.” So he and his team will serve primarily European imports as well as a few local beers, a local cider, and a shandy or a radler on tap. “Quality matters,” he says. “Our clients are very sophisticated. We’ll keep a close watch over the quality.”
That list will pair to a menu that Chatrny is calling central European beer hall food that’s raised to a gastropub level. “We don’t want to lose customers to dinner after a beer or two,” he says. “We want to have better cuisine. But nothing too fancy — we want to be a place where locals can eat twice a week. We want to create something that’s accessible to everyone with great food, fresh beer, and locally sourced ingredients.”
The partners chose Long Island City for their first outlet because, says Chatrny, it’s an “up-and-coming neighborhood. There have been a lot of recent developments, but we’ll have less competition initially. We’re a block from MOMA PS 1, which gives the Manhattan crowd a reason to go there. And then there are locals who live there and work there, but the restaurant scene hasn’t kept up.”
Despite it’s accessibility, though, Chatrny says the partners hope it will become a local gathering spot as opposed to a destination. “We want to be part of a community,” he says. And the group is looking at opening a Manhattan location in the future, anyway, one of five restaurants they’d like to build in New York City before they branch out into London, Paris, Madrid, and Rome.
And if things go according to plan, Chatrny hopes to have 100 locations open within 10 years. “I’m building this as a business,” he says. “Every single location will be built with the idea of having an additional 100 built. I approach it as a business, and not necessarily just as restaurant.”
The team hopes to open in December, but acknowledges permitting and construction could delay that. Look for Bierocracy to come online sometime this winter.
See artist renderings of the space on the next page.
This article from the Village Voice Archive was posted on September 8, 2014