When Holly MacGibbon and Andy Simmons opened Birdy’s (1215 Myrtle Avenue, Brooklyn, facebook.com/birdysbushwick), their bar near the Myrtle-Broadway J/M/Z stop, they were looking to create the kind of atmosphere they sought in their own favorite hangouts. As it just so happens, their tastes are that of your quirky uncle who came of age in the Seventies and never really grew up.
MacGibbon and Simmons have spent years working in north Brooklyn drinking establishments and can often be found behind the Birdy’s bar, shaking up $7 singapore slings and serving cheap beer-and-shot specials. Like much of their clientele, they also play in a band — postpunk outfit Weeknight — and have toured dives from coast to coast. “We wanted this place to be what bars in New York used to be,” says Simmons. “It’s classic New York.”
With wood-paneled interior, free foosball, a photo booth, and four well-maintained pinball machines, not to mention kitschy flea-market décor that pays tribute to Elvis and Kiss, they’ve hit the nostalgia nail on the head. The pièce de résistance is a giant painting of galloping horses that shimmers with color-changing LED lights. It’s MacGibbon’s favorite bit of ephemera in the bar: “It’s hard to not love the horses the most,” she says.
In just over a year, MacGibbon and Simmons have fostered a familial atmosphere, greeting the regulars hunched beneath stained-glass lighting fixtures by name, offering up jerky, dub pies, and complimentary party mix. “You talk with people; you establish relationships,” says Simmons. “The people that come here are everything. This place is as much theirs as it is ours, really.”
Still, the duo’s personality shines from every corner — and blasts from the speakers. When Birdy’s isn’t hosting live DJs, the sound system is pumping Gun Club, Joy Division, and Richard Hell. MacGibbon curates the space’s soundtrack, sparked by input from customers and employees. “Someone will say we could use a funk playlist or early-disco playlist, or whatever,” she explains. “Then I just start digging and digging and digging.”
And though Birdy’s is decidedly not a sports bar, its proprietors make an exception when the Mets make the playoffs, pulling back a red velvet curtain to reveal a slyly hidden TV for their baseball-loving patrons’ pleasure. With the Mets now out of the postseason, the screen is once again hidden, but will reemerge for the Super Bowl, MacGibbon says: “Even people who don’t like sports like the Super Bowl.”
The bar is, by and large, like some arcane clubhouse, a home away from home for transplants and native New Yorkers alike, a throwback watering hole where all can find common ground. So when that uncle rolls into town with his cover band, make sure to meet him at Birdy’s, where he’ll feel like he never left his mom’s basement.