A Bay Ridge native, famed musician and local tattoo artist is opening up yet another small business in his hometown.
Founder of ’90s punk-rap fusion group The Lordz of Brooklyn, Michael “Mr. Kaves” McLeer, has teamed up with fellow Brooklyn restaurateur and beer connoisseur Ray Medina to open up The Brooklyn Firefly – a brand new restaurant that will specialize in pizza and beer from local brewers, as well as wine and spirits – in place of the now-shuttered Yellow Hook Grille.
The pair plans to utilize the 3,500-square-foot space at 7003 Third Avenue – a cornerstone that once also housed Yellow Hook’s well-loved predecessor, Lento’s – to create an ambiance that is just as much about the neighborhood as it is about the food.
“My partner and I wanted to draw from the heritage and the legacy of the location to create a place in our neighborhood where people can cultivate their love of music, art and pizza,” said McLeer, who’s been doing business in the Ridge as far back as 2009 when he founded Brooklyn Made Tattoo. “Being Bay Ridge natives, there is a special weight to taking over the location of Lento’s and Yellow Hook. These were Bay Ridge staples. People have been coming up to us over there excited and anxious about what we’re going to do. Those are the moments when you understand just how ingrained a place can become within a community”
McLeer and Medina – both Bay Ridge locals with deep roots in the ‘hood who have actually been next-door neighbors for years – have signed a 10-year-deal with representing realtor Cushman & Wakefield, an agreement that will allow for the duo to open up shop as early as September.
The pair promises to offer patrons an “authentic Brooklyn experience,” as well as live music and a place for local artists to put their talents on display.
“I want this to be a gathering place and I want this to be a home – a living room, a kitchen table, and a refuge – for the folks in this neighborhood,” McLeer told this paper. “I’d like this to be the place people come to unwind but also to be stimulated; where they can indulge in the simplicity of a good slice of pizza, an absolutely cold beer, and be electrified as they watch a live jazz trio. As an artist and the storyteller I fancy myself to be, my endeavor here is to craft a unique eatery and home of creative output.”
According to fellow locals like Justin Brannan – a friend of McLeer’s – the concept behind Brooklyn Firefly is a special one.
“It’s funny when people talk about a ‘hipster invasion’ in Bay Ridge. I always wonder if folks are just mistaking the kids like us who grew up under the Verrazano but spent our formative years taking the R to Eighth Street and bringing that East Village culture back with us,” he said. “We’re not invading; we were always here. There has always been a thriving art and culture underground in Bay Ridge. Now you’re just seeing it bubbling to the surface a little more.”
McLeer cited childhood memories and the strong sense of community in his hometown as some of his biggest inspirations for the eatery.
“On summer nights, as kids, we caught fireflies,” he said. “I want to build a space that will be representative of that tie to your neighborhood and that freedom – the freedom to reign over your nightscape, the freedom to surround yourself with what inspires you, the freedom to indulge. This is why I’m calling it the Brooklyn Firefly. I want to enliven that nostalgia –the time you caught a firefly, the time you shared a pizza pie.”
And that’s just the sort of vibe McLeer and Medina – the co-owner of the Brooklyn Tap House – hope to create.
“As we begin this together, we hope to contribute to this neighborhood’s history and culture. It’s the culmination of years of us living, working and evolving in Bay Ridge. Now we’re giving back to it,” said McLeer. “It’s going to be a labor of love, operated by ourselves and our families. We’re so proud to begin this project and share this place – and a slice – with Brooklyn.”