With two beer gardens in Astoria and another expected to open in Long Island City by mid-July, Western Queens seems to be becoming the “biergarten” central of the borough.
John Brown Smokehouse, which closed its 25-08 37 Ave. location in LIC on June 30, will reopen as a place not only for delicious BBQ dishes, but as an outdoor ale house and music center as well.
The new location at 10-43 44 Dr. will be a drastic change from the older 25-seat restaurant. It will now have more than 60 seats for customers, said Josh Bowen, owner of the smokehouse, which only opened in August of last year.
“This place compared to our old place — we’re positioned by many, many trains now,” Bowen said.
The smokehouse is conveniently located near the E, M, 7 and G trains. Bowen said the restaurant used to get a couple of hundred customers a day, but the 44th Drive spot can accommodate that many customers in one night. Their location may even bring in customers from Manhattan, he added.
The growing business has already catered food for major events, including Socrates Sculpture Park’s 14th annual film festival series, dubbed Outdoor Cinema, which began on July 4.
The outdoor bar is approximately 40 by 40 feet, which he said can accommodate between 30 and 40 people. That is small compared to Studio Square and Bohemian Hall, the two beer gardens in Astoria, both of which can house a few hundred people.
But Bowen added that a real highlight to the location is, “We don’t really have any neighbors, so we can play live music whenever we want.”
The main music that will be played for live entertainment will be blues. There will not be singer-songwriter or rock ’n’ roll music, Bowen said. As a musician, he wants to maintain a “down home” atmosphere. Ideally, he said, he would like music to be played as many days a week as possible. Bowen said he hopes to also feature musicians outside of New York.
“There’s not really big music venues in Queens either, so maybe we can cover those bases too,” he said.
The smokehouse moved into what used to be the LIC Gyro Company. All that is left to do is “turning it around — decorating it to make it look like John Brown.”
Although Bowen does not know what the grand opening will entail, he did say, “We might be adding a couple of steak cuts and maybe some appetizers.” He said his main concern is getting the place set up — the details can come later.
Lubos Spacek, the general manager of Bohemian Hall, said there is no precedent for how many beer gardens there can be in Queens.
“Everybody’s looking for business and opening a new venue is a possibility of making new jobs,” Spacek said.
Dan Miner, senior vice president of the LIC Partnership, said John Brown’s expansion is a positive thing for the community.
“It’s a wonderful thing for Queens to have here,” Miner said. “We’re glad that John Brown is expanding — we certainly need nice places to eat and drink in our neighborhood.”
Miner said beer gardens may be popular in Western Queens because of the area’s history. Bohemian Hall has been around for more than 100 years, and survived other beer gardens that closed several years ago. Studio Square, which is relatively new, opened in 2009. Within the last few years, he said, several barbecue eateries have also popped up.
He added that when New York City was experiencing its barbecue renaissance about 20 years ago, Pearson’s Texas BBQ opened in LIC — the first restaurant of its kind to open in the city, Miner added. It is now located behind Legends Bar & Grill in Jackson Heights.
Beer festivals are also becoming a bigger part of Queens. Get Real Presents will be having its “Cask Ale Festival” from July 13 to 15 at Alewife, a beer hall and restaurant located at 5-14 51 Ave. in LIC. Four sessions will showcase more than 50 cask ales from several breweries, both national and international.
It’s not just the beer that’s alluring, but the restaurants that serve it, Miner said.
“People need to go out and eat and drink and enjoy themselves,” he said. “More restaurants serving good quality food and drink are valuable.”