Bad news in the cards: RIP Prospect Heights’ Minor Arcana

So long, cheap friend. Photo by Kelly Murphy

So long, cheap friend. Photo by Kelly Murphy

The Minor Arcana, Prospect Heights’ eclectically-decorated neighborhood bar that prompted Yelp endorsements like, “The next time you want to black out, do it here,” and “A woman, a hot woman, came right up to Bill and started making out with him,” will close its doors this Saturday to make way for a desperately needed neighborhood sports bar. As the only establishment I feel comfortable wearing my $5 Urban Outfitters leopard-print Daisy Dukes to, my sense of loss cuts deep.

I was first introduced to the bar by a friend who, upon hearing I was moving to the area said, “We’ve got to take you to Minor Arcana – it’s a lot like college. Last time I was there, I just ran around wearing a hard hat.” With a brokester-friendly buy one, get one late night happy hour from midnight – 1am and disjointed skeletons hanging from the walls, it was better than college. The tarot cards handed out to swap in for a free drink with their seductive but ominous images of various goddesses came to symbolize the sort of black magic ambiance of the place. Over the past year, the bartenders became my best friends and Minor Arcana became (almost literally) my home. As summed up by one of the bartenders, Larry, “Minor helped me come out of my shell and become the real me. It was a second family that didn’t judge me at all and appreciated me for being me.” Fortunately, now you’ll be able to make connections in the dull glow of a 60-inch plasma flat screen.

All it took to be a regular was a relatively high tolerance and a disregard for regular sleep cycles. When I submitted my book manuscript at 2am after seven months of feverish writing, the staff was there to buy me shots and turn the accomplishment into a bar-wide twerk session. When I needed refuge from a sudden Sunday afternoon rain shower, Minor was there with a rum and coke at the ready before I even made it in the door. When a friend needed a use for some Playboy centerpieces from the 70s she’d come across, she was offered the chance to craft them into a smutty diorama to decorate the space beneath the glass bar top. When she presented her masterpiece the following week, the bartender tossed his least favorite diorama over his shoulder into the trash no sweat, replaced it, and rewarded her with a free drink.

In a neighborhood noted for brownstones and tree-lined streets, Minor provided a refuge from the highfalutin’ cocktail bars and steampunk-themed nerd bars (sorry, Dr. Who fans) scattered along Washington Avenue. Instead of paying a cover down the block to watch someone slowly strum a ukulele, passersby could show up at 1am and be ushered into a round of Truth or Jenga (Jenga with dares written on the blocks like “Take pants OFF”). Those games usually resulted in body shots, which usually resulted in people falling off the bar, but luckily they always managed to get right back up. It was a safe space to discuss whether the term “ratchet” is politically correct or wander in with a hula hoop and start twirling your hips. Or to kiss the boy you’d avoided eye contact with at all your friend’s loft parties because he was in front of you in the bathroom line and you knew you wouldn’t remember the next morning if he rejected you.

The stack of tarot cards from happy hour drinks unfulfilled perched on my windowsill now acts as a reminder that a true neighborhood bar is really hard to find. I doubt I’ll find another place so hypnotic that every time Brandy’s “Put It Down (Maybe We Can Fall In Love)” came on, even complete strangers sitting on the bench outside would be holding hands by the outro. In astrology, the Minor Arcana forms four cycles, two of which end positively and two of which end darkly, but its cycles are key to revealing the whole picture of the deck. The red walls of 706 Washington beckoned trysts and housed heartbreak but as another bartender Marcel, put it, “Minor always brought people together,” even if it took a little year-round mistletoe hung in the corner to do it.

12 Comment

  • Sorry to hear that New York is changing in the year or so you’ve lived here. Hopefully five years from now nothing else you like ever closes down. That would be too much to bear.

  • It sucks to see this place go. Locals have called it home for a long time.

    And as more gentrification sweeps the neighborhood, it was nice to see this place thrive amongst uber-pretentious folk. Whenever I hung out there, sneers from passerbys was so obligatory that it strengthened my loyalty to Minor.

    CBGB was once seen as a developer’s nuisance, but now a replica of the bathroom is in the Met.

    I doubt that the facade of Minor will be at the Brooklyn Museum any time soon, but the sentiment is all the same. People and things are more interesting when they are rough around the edges. And the ‘buy one get one free’ didn’t hurt either.

    • “A long time” = three years? There are plenty of establishments in Crown Heights that have been pushed out thanks to the gentrification of the neighborhood, ones that surely were around for a lot longer than this. (Try Sepia on Underhill Avenue. Been there for about a decade. THAT’s a long time.)

      I’d also love to know if people would be as upset if a bar that was more palatable to your sensibilities moved in, rather than a sports bar. I get being upset because a bar you loved closed, but the outrage here seems outsize – is it just because what’s replacing it isn’t cool?

      • Yah, this place is very new. And had no consistent vibe.

        I hate the italicized “desperately” in the first paragraph. It is needed – there is no sports bar in the area anymore. And people actually like sports. I get pining for a place you enjoyed – but to make it sound like some long-standing place is going out for something no one wants is just not true

  • Minor was one of the few places on Washington Ave. where long time residents and newcomers, like myself, mingled, drank, laughed, and twerk’d together. It will be missed.

    I propose a boycott of this new sports bar. Head a few blocks south to Half Court at Park Place & Washington instead.

    • Half court is closed

      • Nope, it is still open, I saw plenty of drinkers and fans in there 2 days ago. Half Court seems to have irregular hours, I suspect that it is only open when games are playing.

  • This place opened in June 2010. Three years is not a long time. And Washington St was not some rouge land untouched by gentrification in 2010. You People show up after residents have spent years creating a community for themselves and their families, pricing them out because a couple bars and restaurants opened, and lament when the stuff you like leaves.

    • Just so I’m following the logic here, the “you people” (leaving aside the xenophobic undertones) are, by virtue of buying/renting living space in a neighborhood that, I presume, is available to anyone who can afford the asking price (and, you know, doesn’t have a co-op board to approve new residents), forcing previous residents out of the community. Then, this amorphous blob of conspicuous consumption, that has redefined a neighborhood and brought in new businesses, is somehow unable to keep the businesses they like open. I’m no economist, but please explain how a driving economic force (we’ll stop calling them individual people, so it’s easier for you to blindly dislike them) can on one hand change a neighborhood, and on the other hand not be able to sustain those changes…all while every change is still its fault.

      To preclude any presumption, I grew up in Brooklyn, at the very end of the L train (back when you took it and waited until you reached Union Square before getting out). And I agree that gentrification has a lot of ugliness, but I’m not sure I get where you place the blame or what your solution is, except to be reactionary. Should we stop letting people move here who didn’t grow up here? Section off some neighborhoods? Maybe if there were some way of identifying them by sight on the street…

  • They didn’t close because business was bad or someone wanted to buy the space out. The sold the business to free up time for a new place they are opening elsewhere. Running more than 2 places was going to be difficult so after a long deliberation the owners decided to let minor go.