HOW FORT GREEN ENTREPRENEUR CALVIN CLARK IS ELEVATING THE BOROUGH’S BAR-LOUNGE CONCEPT
BY CATHERINE GIGANTE-BROWN • PHOTOS BY ALEX BARRETO
Calvin Clark, who currently owns three Kings County establishments (Mo’s Bar, Club Langston, and Bedford Hall)—and is opening up a fourth—has cornered the local nightlife scene with his unique takes on congregation and libation.
Designed and built by Clark himself (a high-end carpenter), his spaces are sensuous and conducive to intimate exchanges. Bedford Hall, a bar/lounge in Bed-Stuy, echoes speakeasys of days gone by, full of warm wood, cozy nooks and crannies, and antique leather-bound books lining the walls. “And yes, the books are real,” he laughed.
“I like to study the way people interact in public places,” Clark said. “I take pride in creating spaces that enhance conversation…communal areas that encourage people to be around each other.” To accomplish this, he gets creative with mirrors and curtains, encouraging guests to navigate past each other, fostering the social experience.
For Bedford Hall, Clark said that he aimed to mirror the atmosphere of the surrounding area’s brownstones. “I want it to feel like this space had been here for 125 years, yet make it unique.”
The buildout created just that—a space that looks as if an expansive turn-of-the-20th-century apartment had been gently reclaimed and polished— making it all the more difficult to believe that it was a parking garage before Clark arrived. There’s a distinct neighborhoody vibe inside, complete with photographs honoring famous former residents, from Jackie Robinson to Jackie Gleason, Lena Horne to Isaac Asimov.
Cocktails are also a nod to local notables and lore. Examples are “The Lena,” a spicy little number made with tequila, blood orange habanero puree, lemon-lime, sugar cane syrup, and red pepper flakes dusting the rim. Then there’s “The Nora,” named for Nora Jones (who was born in Bed-Stuy but moved to Texas as a child), a symphony of whiskey, peach ciroc, and cranberry.
Clark’s menu changes seasonally. Think super-fine finger food. There’s Mac Attack (grown-up mac and cheese crafted with three cheeses, panko Parmesean breadcrumbs and finished off with bacon chips, crawfish or crab), “island spiced” pork skewers with a mango sweet chili sauce, twin sweet lump crab cakes, and among the brunch choices, catfish and grits and salmon croquettes.
Clark was born in Queens and grew up largely in the South Bronx. He first came to Brooklyn in his 20s “and fell in love with it,” he told. “I’ve lived in Fort Green for almost 30 years and I’ve seen it go from 90% black to 75% white.” But rather than criticizing gentrification, Clark embraces it. “A neighborhood is a living thing,” he explained. “It constantly changes; that’s its nature.”
Before redefining the face of Kings County nightlife, Clark was a master carpenter for decades. “Carpentry is rewarding but physically taxing,” he said. “I knew I was using the trade as a way to get to what I wanted to do, just didn’t know what that was for several years.”
The bar-lounge business fit the bill. “Mo’s was already established and had a strong identity when I took it over,” he said. “I didn’t want to change it, just tweak it…wanted to enhance what I understood about how human beings interacted. I kept the staff and music diverse because I wanted everyone who walked through the doors to feel welcome—black, white, Jew, gentile.”
Club Langston’s a haven of house music with fab drinks and an inclusive attitude.
Clark’s currently working on getting a gourmet pizza shop off the ground. “We’re talking fantastic pizza with natural ingredients plus a great selection of wine and beer,” he said. “I learn something new with every new venue and each one is better than the one before it. What’s key is creating a space within a space—making individuals and groups feel comfortable, whether they’re a blue-collar worker, a techie, a doctor, or lawyer. I want to reflect the diversity and inclusiveness that makes Brooklyn such a standout place.”