A new film pays tribute to one of Brooklyn’s oldest bars

January 2, 2020 Scott Enman
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Farrell’s Bar and Grill was “Facebook before Facebook.”

WINDSOR TERRACE — Windsor Terrace is less than a square mile in size, yet it’s a neighborhood known around the city for one reason: being home to one of Brooklyn’s oldest drinking spots, Farrell’s Bar and Grill.

Drinking out of Farrell’s iconic Styrofoam cups is equivalent to eating a Nathan’s hot dog or riding on the Cyclone. All three are quintessential Brooklyn traditions. (Though New York City’s Styrofoam ban put an end to that particular cherished pastime, the memories live on.)

Eddie Farrell opened the bar in 1933, and 86 years later, not a lot has changed. It’s still a no-frills, cash-only joint. It’s still one of the best places in the borough to celebrate St. Patrick’s Day. And it still offers one of the coldest beers in the city.DAILY TOP BROOKLYN NEWSNews for those who live, work and play in Brooklyn and beyond

Now, Jason Cusato and Rob Martin, two Brooklynites who grew up in the area, are paying tribute to the borough’s oldest bar with a film dubbed “Why Farrell’s?” The movie will explore what makes the place so special and how it has resisted change as the city around it becomes increasingly more unrecognizable.

“[Farrell’s has] survived New York real estate, blackouts, gentrification, 14 presidents, 39 wars, stock market crashes and has remained largely unchanged since it’s founding and remains an important staple of its community today,” Martin said.

The iconic Styrofoam cups sit behind the bar. Photo: Rob Martin and Jason Cusato

“Farrell’s is more than a Brooklyn bar with a reputation of having the coldest tap beer in New York City. It’s a town hall, a community center, a place to get caught up with friends and family from the neighborhood, it’s a meeting place for a celebration, or to hear the sad news of the passing of old friends.”

The neighborhood watering hole was visited by Brooklyn legends like Pete Hamill and Harvey Keitel, as well as by other celebrities like Shirley MacLaine and Peter Weller. (Hamill was interviewed for the film.)

Pete Hamill (left) and Rob Martin share an intimate moment during an interview for the movie. Photo: Rob Martin and Jason Cusato

Cusato and Martin are trying to raise $24,200 by the end of the year to help expedite the production of the film. They’ve currently raised 19 percent of their goal, though they said if they don’t reach that final figure, they would finish the project regardless. “We have to tell this story no matter what,” Cusato said.

Farrell’s is more than just a place to get a drink, according to locals and those who work there. It operates as a civic center, a town hall and an anchor of the neighborhood. One patron even called it the “Facebook before Facebook,” since everyone came there to find out information about what was happening in Brooklyn.

“It’s not just a bar,” said Samantha Horan, one of the current owners. “People come here for happy events, for sad events. It’s just a place of being felt welcome. It supports the community. We would not be here if it wasn’t for the community supporting us. We like to reciprocate and give that back.”

Dozens of patrons pour into Farrell’s. Photo: Rob Martin and Jason Cusato

Farrell, who passed away in 1995, was a family man known for hosting fundraisers and charity events. Once, he paid out of pocket to buy a new bell for the neighborhood’s Holy Name of Jesus Church. He also helped countless people get on their feet, doing what he could to get them jobs as firefighters, police officers or sanitation workers.

Rob Martin, Samantha Horan and Jason Cusato pose for a picture. Photo: Rob Martin and Jason Cusato

Cusato said that as more and more neighborhood joints close in an ever-changing city, he felt it was the appropriate time to make the film.

“Brooklyn is always changing. New York is always changing,” he said. “It feels much more rapid right now. This place is like a time capsule. It has evolved for the better but the core of it has not changed, so this was a really great time to tell the story, not only of the bar itself, but of the community.”

That indescribable element of what makes Farrell’s so special was the driving force behind the film according to Martin. How has it been able to resist change after all these years? Why is it a place where people come together? Is it the beer? Is it the people?

“Why Farrell’s?” he said. “That’s the question we hope to answer in the movie.”

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