Though the L train (non) shutdown seems to get more and more confusing each day, north Brooklyn still remains a prime place to go out at night. Last weekend, Bushwick got a new nightclub with the opening of 444 Club on Irving Avenue, and tonight, Williamsburg restaurant and music venue Gran Torino hosts its gran(d) opening with an open bar and concert.
444 Club is the brainchild of Claire Bendiner, co-owner of Bushwick bar Rebecca’s, and her partners Bowen Goh and Leander Capuozzo. It was born like many other nightlife ventures are: out of a desire to create a safe and fulfilling community space after seeing many bars and clubs close around them.
In a press release, Bendiner notes 444 was inspired by the “radically free” and queer warehouse parties she attended when first putting down roots in Brooklyn. Capuozzo, who assisted in the space’s gilded-yet-industrial design, cites both filmmaker Gregg Araki’s work and the notion of the “impossible” club experience—you know, the kind that’s not around anymore but everyone still talks about as a gold standard—as influences on the club’s visuals and vibe.
As much as radical freedom is an interest to the 444 team, they also want to tangibly prioritize cultivating a space where marginalized partygoers can feel “safe and happy” without the fear of dealing with aggressive, unkind, or otherwise unsafe patrons.
To Bendiner, this “means making certain sacrifices to ensure that all your customers feel safe and secure,” she tells B+B. “That means having protocols in place to kick out predators and violent offenders no matter how much money they spend at your space, making sure staff members can spot people doing illegal or problematic things, taking the initiative to handle the issue, and hiring security as needed to kick people out, which is an unfortunate but regular part of nightlife.”
They also recognize profitability is important and rent is high, and though there has been promising nightlife-centric local legislation passed in recent years, the steep operating costs many scrappier venues face when operating legally in a city with countless regulations remain.
“Smaller nightlife spaces will always struggle in New York under these circumstances,” Bendiner says. “The optimism I have comes from seeing nightlife operators have similar mindsets of supporting each other rather than competing against each other, and taking the time and effort to take care of the patrons that come to our spaces.”
444 will be predominantly hosting DJ-oriented parties, but has plans to expand to programming like live punk shows and comedy. You also won’t be seeing much of them during the week—they’re currently only open from Thursday to Saturday, focusing more on quality over quantity of events, which Bendiner says may change with demand.
Over on Williamsburg’s Berry Street, the former Diviera Drive space has become Gran Torino, which is not a place themed around the Clint Eastwood film but rather a restaurant/bar/venue from the same team as before (who are also behind Soho’s Café Select), serving European-inspired food and cocktails. Following in the footsteps of several other night-oriented institutions in the borough, Gran Torino offers coworking during the day through the company KettleSpace and more unabashed merriment once the sun begins to set. There’s also a spacious backyard and garden, for all your outdoor drinking and eating needs.
While Gran Torino has been quietly open to the public for a little over a month, their official grand opening is tonight. They’re kicking things off with a bang: specifically, a concert featuring psych-dance-rock weirdos Guerilla Toss and Philly-based “sassy sassy rock band” Godcaster, as well as an open tequila and mezcal bar from 8 pm to 9 pm.
Club 444 is located at 4 Irving Avenue, Bushwick.
Gran Torino is located at 131 Berry Street, Williamsburg.