Lone Wolf owner Jessica Lee Wertz (right) with business partner and bar manager, Naomi Blume (left). Photos by Rachel Eisley for BushwickBK
Bushwick party goers will likely remember the underground events at the unlicensed music venue Bodega, on the corner of Broadway and Dodworth Street — not at all to be confused with the wine bar of the same name. After a police raid in the early hours of the morning in February 2009, the organizers, Chief Mag, closed the space indefinitely, and approached Jessica Lee Wertz about opening up a legitimate bar.
Lee Wertz, who grew up in Korea and Japan and has worked in the food and beverage industry for the last decade, including in Hong Kong, immediately thought it was a great idea. Recalling the "long and arduous story," she says she poured her savings into the project, but months went by, and she found herself with a lease, paying rent, and no more money to build out the space. So, she paused, and started work on another project, a bar on Manhattan Avenue on the Greenpoint-Williamsburg border, where she lives.
But slowly, things at the bodega started to come together. Naomi Blume, an artist from London who now lives in Brooklyn, was keen to be a partner in the bar. Investors became interested, and enough money was raised to cover legal fees and buy materials. "People could see the potential every time they walked through the door," said Lee Wertz.
After an almost two-year journey, Lone Wolf opened this month. A chill space that’s stylishly lit with candles, it’s worlds away from the days of the Bodega. The partners themselves did most of the build out, with help from their many creative friends, including one who donated the wood for the floor, cabinets, and shelving behind the bar. "It’s been an amazing conglomeration of friends and family coming together," said Lee Wertz.
Walking in, the first thing you notice is the sweeping, curved bartop, its shape inspired by the rare vintage Bevador cooler, made by the Jewett Refrigerator Co. in Buffalo, which stands behind the counter. There’s a pinball machine, a juke box playing mainly country metal and rock and roll ("the good ol’ stuff"), plenty of seating (the wooden benches are from Williamsburg’s Moto), and a sizable stage lit by umbrella-shaped metal chandeliers.
Although Lone Wolf, next door to Goodbye Blue Monday, will host bands and other acts, it’s a neighborhood bar, first and foremost. "Our focus is not be a music venue, but a really cool place for people to hang out in," said Lee Wertz. As for drinks, the partners are keeping it "down to earth with beer, booze, and wine," with a Bud and shot special every day of the week for $6.
There are plans to offer food down the track, too – possibly noodles, one of Lee Wertz’s obsessions – once she and Blume, the bar’s manager, figure out the best way of doing it. And with a whole downstairs area that will be eventually remodeled, there’s no shortage of space.