By Ben Apatoff
Decked out in band posters (some signed) featuring an array of metal gods and cult heroes, the Lucky 13 Saloon in Brooklyn is as close as New York gets to having a metal museum. Then again, how many museums host DILLINGER ESCAPE PLAN CD release parties, SKELETONWITCH video shoots and the best jukebox in all of New York City ("South of Heaven" reportedly being the most popular song)? Not to mention a lethally affordable house brew and enough horror movie memorabilia to satisfy a wing at Comic-Con.
Tucked away on 13th St. between 5th and 6th Ave. in Park Slope, the Lucky 13 Saloon is a breath of fresh mania in an increasingly suburban area. "When I moved to Park Slope in 2001, I was really surprised that there was no cool rock n' roll or metal bar there," states fiercely charming barkeep Melody Henry. "I felt like I had nowhere to hang out in my own neighborhood. My partner Jeff was the daytime manager at Webster Hall at the time we decided to open a bar. Basically I maxed out all my credit cards and we built the bar from scratch all by ourselves." After many work-filled months, Lucky 13 opened near the end of 2003.
Since then, Lucky 13 has hosted shows, birthday parties, metal show ticket raffles, "scaryoke night," metal DJ nights, Guitar Hero competitions and frequent band parties. Usually these events are accompanied by horror and/or sci-fi movies screening from the bar's two TVs, as well as some of the most memorable debauchery that you may ever witness in a tavern. "Complete random girls who walk in shy wind up dancing on the bar sometimes, taking their shirt off. I love that shit!" remembers Melody. "BRENT HINDS from MASTODON was in pretty recently and we've had some cool record release parties which were just loads of fun, CANDIRIA for one, and HULL just had a party with us to kick off their tour which was a big success."
Personally, as thrilling as it is to run into the occasional metal hero, it's the open friendliness of the patrons that keeps regulars like myself (and even my straight-edge friends) returning. Lucky 13 is an ideal place for meeting metalheads, film buffs and just good-natured folks in the area. It's also a welcome alternative to the yuppie clubs, sports bars and hipster havens that dominate Brooklyn. "I have been to so many bars where there are fights or cliques or politics and all kinds of crap," says Melody, "but at Lucky 13 you will see the metalhead talking to the neighbor talking to the skatepunk talking to the girls who perform at our burlesque shows and so on. You can walk in by yourself and know you will usually wind up in an interesting conversation with someone; you're never really alone at Lucky 13."
Unfortunately, as with many Brooklyn institutions, economic turmoil and housing prices have not been kind to Lucky 13. "A lot of our old clientele had to leave the neighborhood over the last few years due to the rising ridiculous cost of living in park slope, and we've also taken a hit from the economy with people just coming out less and spending less money in general," explains Melody. "The other thing that had killed us was getting a ton of noise complaints from the neighbors, and a lot of that isn't just the noise of music but the noise of customers. So if you are a customer of Lucky 13, PLEASE keep it down in front of the bar and don't sit on neighbors stoops! We have neighbors and they do call the police on us a lot and then we get fines. We got a noise fine at 9:20 pm on a Saturday night that cost us $1000 that we really didn't have in the first place, but you have to pay these things, obviously."
Still, Lucky 13 is not about the buckle down to the pressures of the great recession. "We still have the cheapest drinks around and especially in the Slope," says Melody. "We offer $1 canned beers from 3-9 pm every single day and you will not find that anywhere else." As a vital part of New York's metal community and what's left of Brooklyn character, the Lucky 13 Saloon is as much a torch-carrier as it is a bro-down habitat. Do yourself and the bar a favor by visiting.