Talking To Paul Hamill Of Prospect Avenue’s Newest Bar, Mohawk Tavern

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If you were sensibly hiding from the wind and rain indoors last night, you may have missed the opening of Mohawk Tavern–the warm, homey new bar in the former Crossroads Cafe space at 1241A Prospect Avenue (on the corner of Reeve Place).

What you might not have realized is that Mohawk could very well be the perfect place to sit out a storm, what with its woodsy interior, cozy nooks, and familiar Windsor Terrace faces behind the bar. We stopped in just before Mohawk Tavern’s 6pm opening to meet co-owners Leah and Brandon (you can see Brandon furiously working on their chalkboard menu below), and spoke to their partner Paul Hamill about what neighbors can expect from the bar down the line.

How long have you, Leah, and Brandon been working together? How did you first meet and start collaborating?

I met Leah Allen and her husband Mike O’Neil about five years ago. They were looking to open a new bar in addition to the bar they owned at the time, Abilene, in Carrol Gardens.

Some friends of mine worked at Abilene and they put me in touch with them to collaborate as an investor. The result was Lowlands Bar on Third Avenue in Gowanus, which opened in March of 2010. Later they opened Skylark Bar on Fifth Avenue in Park Slope with other partners.

I have known Brandon for a long time. We both grew up in Albany and actually went to high school together. Brandon works at Abilene and Lowlands and is longtime friends with some of the partners at the other bars. This will be the first bar Brandon owns, but I think he’ll be better at it than all the rest of us.

In addition to co-owning Lowlands with Mike and Leah, I currently manage the kitchens at Skylark and Abilene.

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Why did you decide to open a place in Windsor Terrace, and why call it Mohawk Tavern?

We chose to open a bar in Windsor Terrace because Mike and Leah and Brandon all live in the neighborhood. And it’s a great neighborhood! Leah has been eyeing that strip for a possible bar for a couple of years, and when the Crossroads space became available we all thought it would be a good fit. Corner locations are great spots for bars.

And Windsor Terrace is perfect for the type of bar we built; a cozy neighborhood spot where you can grab a drink after work, hang out with a group of friends on a Friday night, or spend a lazy Sunday afternoon drinking Bloody Marys and chatting with strangers.

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I live in Crown Heights so I’m not as familiar with WT as my partners, but I like the neighborhood a lot. I know that it’s probably changed in the last five or ten years, with families and young people moving in from other areas. But for now it all seems to work and I don’t think there is any danger of Windsor Terrace becoming the next Williamsburg.

There is something really charming about that stretch of Prospect Avenue. It almost feels like a Main Street in a small town. My hope is that Mohawk Tavern will be embraced by the newcomers as well as the people that have been living in Windsor Terrace for a long time.

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A bit about the name. As I said before, Brandon and I both grew up in Albany. The Mohawk River forms the northern border of Albany County right where it meets up with the Hudson. The bar has an upstate New York theme, in that we plan to serve all New York State beers, at least on draft, and serve wines from the Finger Lakes as well as other wine growing regions of New York.

The decor is kind of lodge/Adirondack campy (in both senses of the word), if that means anything. We wanted the name to tie in with our theme and evoke images of the mountains and lakes of upstate. I’ll let the customers decide if we pulled that off.

Obviously we recognize that the Mohawk are also a people, and any place or body of water named Mohawk in upstate NY comes from them. Hopefully no one of Native American ancestry will take offense to our using the name Mohawk. Tons of place names upstate, and all over the country, come from Native American languages. So, to us, Mohawk refers to the part of upstate where we grew up, and you’re not going to find any Native American artifacts or imagery in the bar.

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Will Mohawk Tavern only be serving drinks, or food as well? Can we expect live music or other events?

Mohawk Tavern will be serving beer and wine as well as liquor and cocktails. We’ll have some food, but the space was too small to fit in a full kitchen without losing half our seating. (There are around fifty seats in the bar. We hope to apply for a cafe license soon and add some sidewalk seating.)

We plan to serve some pressed sandwiches as well as warm pretzels which we’re getting from Pelzer’s in Crown Heights. We’ll also have some bar snacks like olives and chips. And customers will be welcome to bring in their own food from home or from other places in the ‘hood.

It’s unlikely that we’ll be featuring much live music. We just don’t have the space for it, and we don’t want to invite noise complaints. We’ve got good taste in music though, I think, so we’ll always have good tunes on at Mohawk Tavern.

As far as other events go, our customers can expect beer and wine tastings as well as the occasional trivia and movie night. We’re not a sports bar by any stretch but we’re excited to show the world cup this summer and we hope to have our cable hooked up in time for the Kentucky Derby!

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What are your proposed hours?

We haven’t decided on set hours. We’ll probably open in the late afternoon during the week [Editor's note: they opened at 6pm yesterday] and at noon on weekends. Our other bars stay open pretty late, but Windsor Terrace has a different feel so I don’t imagine we’ll be open till 4am most nights.

Lots of people have popped in and seem really excited about our bar. I’m sure there are a some who are less than happy that a bar is opening in their neighborhood and I just want to say that we’re going to do everything we can to be good neighbors.

If people have complaints or concerns they can feel free to call us and we’ll do what we can to address them. I think once we’re open and people get to know us they’ll see that we’re an asset to the neighborhood and not the kind of place that breeds trouble.

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Welcome to the neighborhood, Mohawk Tavern–we look forward to seeing you in the blustery nights ahead!

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