Bar LunÀticoby Juliet Helmke
486 Halsey Street | Bedford-Stuyvesant
“LIQUID LOVE” declares a giant sign running the long, narrow space of Bar LunÀtico in red and electric blue lettering. Previously housed in a windowless dive on Bedford Avenue in Bed Stuy’s east, the sign—now a nudge west and in decidedly different digs—is certainly apropos, echoing LunÀtico’s fluidity. With an assortment of mismatched tables and chairs, muted, multi-hued lighting, retro metal lampshades, bare bulbs sticking out from the tin ceiling, posters and patterns from around the world (and a small dinner menu that taps equally disparate heritages), the theme is boho-nowhere.
Which means, the space becomes anywhere depending on the music of the night. A small wooden platform in the back welcomes everything from Zimbabwean mbira-playing to Middle-Eastern chamber music fusion, soulful singer-songwriters, and every kind of jazz. Live performances begin at 9 PM every evening of the week except Sundays, when gospel kicks off at 2 PM to accompany your holy-day brunching.
On a recent Thursday evening, New Orleans pianist and LunÀtico mainstay Henry Butler queried the crowd: “How many of you like the blues out there?” A roar issued from the two-tops lining the side wall, the handful of tables that are able to seat more, and those squeezed against the long bar. As one of the most intimate performance venues around, this is not a place for loud chatter—just let the music play. And as a set of lovers quietly leaned across their table for a murmur and kiss between songs, three friends agreed: this is undoubtedly a great date spot. But not, perhaps, for a first or second meeting; rather, LunÀtico is for a little later, after questions of personality and proclivities have been formalized, and heady love demands you be constantly in each other’s presence.
“My day is filled with sound, sound, sound” sings Dr. John in the 1974 tune Go Tell the People, penned and produced by legendary musician and songwriter Allen Toussaint, a portrait of whom has been painted on the bar’s back door. Indeed, that’s what LunÀtico’s three co-owners, musicians themselves, deliver on the daily—sound in its most joyous, soulful, and sensual of forms.