COURIER LIFE, JUNE 4-10, 2021 51
OUR ESSENTIAL GUIDE TO THE BOROUGH OF KINGS
BY KEVIN DUGGAN
They’ve unbattened the hatches!
Storied Brooklyn Heights watering
hole Montero’s Bar
and Grill relit its famous
vintage neon sign on
Aug. 28 and welcomed
patrons back indoors after
a 15-month pandemic
“We are proud to announce
that this Friday,
May 28th, marks our reopening.
Yes, you heard
it right. Those neon
lights will illuminate
Atlantic Avenue once
again. We can’t wait to
serve you, to see you, and
to welcome you,” reads a social media
post by the bar from May 26.
The old sailor’s bar between Hicks
Street and the Brooklyn-Queens Expressway
is widely known for its raucous
karaoke nights and many maritime
tchotchkes, but had to close up
in March 2020 as COVID-19 pandemic
wreaked havoc on the city.
Several staff members caught the
virus, such as famed karaoke emcee
Amethyst Valentino, who was hospitalized
at the beginning of the outbreak,
according to a Facebook post from the
bar at the time. Luckily, everyone is
back and healthy again, according to
the bar’s second-generation owner.
“Everyone’s fi ne, ready, and that beacon
of hope will be lit up,” Pepe Montero
told Brooklyn Paper Thursday afternoon
as he prepared to get the inn back
in ship-shape with his wife Linda.
The gregarious 74-year-old was infected
with the virus too, but he said his
illness was little more than a head cold.
The Monteros decided against offering
outdoor dining due to the dangerous
car traffi c at the busy corner of Atlantic
Avenue, which has seen routine accidents
and is right next to an entrance
and exit to the BQE, Montero said.
“Do you really want to sit off of that
street,” he said. “Every day, there’s always
these fender benders.”
The long closure was likely a fi rst
for the beloved alehouse, which fi rst
opened in 1939 across the street from its
current location, where Pepe’s father Joseph,
a former seaman, and mother Pilar,
the daughter of a ferryman, served
visiting sailors and longshoremen who
worked at the nearby waterfront.
They moved the bar across Atlantic
Avenue in 1948 when the city razed the
original location to build the BQE, and
handed the tavern and the three apartments
above over to Pepe in 1997.
The taproom is still lined with maritime
ephemera, such as life preservers
and portholes fastened to the wall with
photos of its founder. A sign bearing the
pub’s name — which a sailor brought
back from Brazil and is made out of butterfl
y wings — is mounted above the
ancient cash register, which has been
with the bar since its early days.
Irish author Frank McCourt used
to live above the establishment in
the 1980s and remembered the famous
neon sign in his 2005 memoir
“Teacher Man,” as noted by the publication
Punch, which chronicled the
bar’s fi nal days before the COVID-19
lockdown last year.
Karaoke will return on a fi rst-comefi
rst-serve basis, Montero said, adding
that he is excited to fi nally welcome patrons
“We’re looking forward to it,” he
Pepe Montero and his wife Linda are excited to reopen Montero’s Bar and Grill on Atlantic
Avenue in Brooklyn Heights. Photos by Kevin Duggan