702 Union Street
Brooklyn, NY 11215
Hours: Music: 8p-12mid, Bar: Sun-Thu Open 4p, Fri-Sat Open 12p
Subway: R to Union St or F to 4th Ave
Written by: Emily Niewendorp
Union Hall goes above and beyond the call of duty in the personality category. The venue’s secret, social-club feel permeates the upstairs bar/lounge and extends downstairs to the glassed-in stuffed bird display in the music room. The ground floor bar is decked out in large bookshelves, dark woodworking, rich-colored furniture, and textured wallpaper. Furniture arrangements section off the room, creating a cozy, sink-yourself-in ambience.
The venue is both a curious destination place for people all over the city and a neighborhood hang-out for loyal customers. Indie music is most common, from rock to singer-songwriter, although the venue is open to all kinds of music. Downstairs the crowd gives special attention to the music, which is sometimes a nice surprise for both musicians and newcomers. This energy is even more prevalent because of the small size of the room. Union Hall highlights musicians that believe in the craft and are making a name for themselves, but also those that enjoy sharing an incredible experience with the audience.
Musicians take notice of Union Hall’s appreciation toward musicians. The general manager Kevin says: “We happened to be lucky enough to get an artist named Andrew Bird to play and it was kind of a secret show. I think he was coming into town to do something much bigger and I think Jack [booker at the time] knew him or his management. And he came to play kind of a practice show to a small audience…stage wise he is very talented, he’s got a lot going on. And he really enjoyed the venue himself, so it was nice to have…he became a fan of us.”
The bar serves burgers and small dishes. There are two popular bocce ball courts, multi-level corners where groups settle, and a large pull-down screen for sports and films.
Union Hall was developed to provide something specific and new for the surrounding community. The space had been vacant for quite some time before the building’s owner found the folks at Union Hall, who agreed it was important to impact the community in a positive way. Favorable word spread quickly on the street attesting to the venue’s musical success. This has given the impression of a venue established long before 2007, but such is not the case.
In 2007, Union Hall was opened, inspired by the venue’s sister bar, Floyd, NY, a neighborhood bar in Brooklyn Heights. Kevin Avanzato was hired to help build Union Hall and being music lovers, the owners and Kevin decided to utilize the new two-floor space by including live music. A cabinet shop beforehand, the entire interior was renovated and designed to represent Union Hall’s private club feel. The bookshelves and bocce ball courts were built and the walls were plaster finished. Time was spent in antique stores salvaging and picking out particularly large paintings. Books were bought by the foot from The Strand Bookstore in Manhattan and some were donated as well: one woman gifted her entire 1960s edition of Encyclopedia Britannica to Union Hall instead of throwing it away.
Through the opening process, relationships were developed and Kevin was asked to stay on as general manager of the venue. Musically, Kevin and the owners had not developed a vision for Union Hall. For the first three years, Jack MacFadden was hired to program the room full time. Through his connections, Jack drew great talent, understood how to best use the space and its assets and from there, the venue blew up to the popular, well-supported place it is today.