Belle Reve means ‘sweet dreams’ or ‘beautiful dream’ in French. But also, it is the name of the plantation in Streetcar Named Desire by Tennessee Williams. And most notably in recent history, the penitentiary in Suicide Squad. All great references for a bar name.
Since it opened just over 3 years ago, we have been frequenting our longest-running favorite NYC bar, Belle Reve in Tribeca. We first discovered it not knowing the bar was part of the Employees Only empire or that a bartender from our past was a part of the operation. We loved the vibe immediately.
Damn place looked like a dive but we had been to the two restaurants in the building prior and knew they just created it. Black and white tiles turned to linoleum, white walls to deep green and now memorabilia lined every wall. Even the boys room downstairs got wallpapered with vintage porn.
First, there’s the story of Vincent, the bartender from our past. We met one night at Macao Trading Co., another Employees Only bar. Vincent was sharing old stories of chugging Guinness and always winning, but as it happens, we were with an Irish friend, Derek. We all looked at one another. And knew from experience he would definitely win that one. So he challenges Vincent to the chug. “Oh, well we don’t have Guinness here” was Vincent’s response.
Of course, as Irish guys do, Derek knew the bartender down the street at South’s. He said he’d be right back. 5 minutes later he arrives with two pints o’ plain. And only one second after that, Derek had proven his point. I filmed it and missed it. Looks in retrospect like Vincent even got a head start. And by some miracle I located the video from March 2010 at Macao…
One second flat. And a new friend for life. Out came the Jameson shots. And we wound up hanging there and at Employees Only in the West Village on and off for some time. But had lost touch for around five years…until we stumbled upon him at Belle Reve.
The beginning is foggy. We met lots of bartenders who came and went. As a matter of fact, Vincent went to open Employees Only Miami and never came back. There were but a few consistent people. Our favorite was Leah. She and Vincent became fast friends and roommates. It’s not hard to become fast friends with Leah. She’s a great girl with a big personality. She, in her words, “Provides a social experience.” And she’s leaving Belle Reve tomorrow.
We recently had another loss, Travis from Puffy’s. While one would not think the loss of a favorite bartender could be so traumatic, it is in NYC at your neighborhood hang. Great conversation keeps us around, sometimes for the whole day. And we’ve spent lots of summer Fridays with both of them. Steve and I motivated to see Travis in Gloucester, MA. We made it a nor’ easter trek. Leah is just going to Greenpoint, Brooklyn. Greenpoint, by the way, is one hour from downtown Manhattan by subway(s) and involves the G train. A direct flight to Boston is one hour, six minutes.
Where oh where shall we hang? There is no backup. A sad day, tomorrow shall be. But we got party favors. Leah tees for all, the Friday regulars and the staff. I won’t wax nostalgic because it isn’t goodbye, just the end of an era.
By the way, you should go there. It won’t be the same, but you’ll still love it. Maybe.
Catch an alternative story on Steve’s Website.