Dark Design: The Clover Club

imageThe original pub (short for “public”) leveled society’s strata of intelligentsia, wealthy, witty, and common … hence its popularity. One thousand years of common drinking history supported conversation from the substantive to the flippant. Oft kept quiet from meddling community outsiders, however, have been the “secondary pubs”: spaces — containing the local riffraff and rarified — positioned down the rabbit hole. Brooklyn’s beauty, the Clover Club, offers just such a “back parlor,” a lap of intimacy, velvet, and fire for educated drinking and communication. (See our gallery of the space.) This secondary space draws the daring and self-selected trouble-making crew crying out to communicate salacious stories. Behind the curtains and down the steps, a husky cast-iron fireplace covered in marble stimulates curious conversation.

The Clover Club nominally deceives; the bar contains no members and welcomes the Smith Street community, one rich in the self-celebrated culture class of the city. “Work is the curse of the drinking classes,” Oscar Wilde stressed. The Clover Club invites a melting of class distinction and a mingling over sophisticated alcoholic concoctions from owner Julie Reiner. Surely, the Victorian-inspired interior would have drawn Wilde on a midafternoon young buck hunt.

With the pub analogy, we do not imply the aesthetics of such; indeed the tin ceilings, lanterns (bell jar fixtures), intricate, tiling, dark mahogany wood, and antique sconces all speak to a unique Northeastern American response to the English-of-origin watering hole. Keen to mount an historical authenticity, owner and design director Michael Brais showcases a late-19th-century mahogany bar shipped from an American hardscrabble mining town. The historically common exterior vertical signage and interior mosaic floors recreate many an American public venue, most now downed by bulldozer.

The Clover Club lights low; in the rear, a careful play between flame and chandelier soothes the synapses. The walls lined with a silk-ish material soften the reflective floor sheen of fire-to-wood. With such calm, one wishes that the massively glazed storefront were transposed with colored stained glass, and that exhaled corrosive mist would fill the lungs. But wait, this is not a pub! On the contrary, one visually engages the streetscape ebb and flow in a “thank you for not smoking” California sunny way, while the frothy barstools are, as the owners say, “designed for guest to stay awhile.”

Named after a bygone lounge of literary libations in Philadelphia, Clover promotes a centuries-old tradition of warmth, openness, community, and a dash of the dodgy secondary “pub,” producing a true public destination. Brooklyn celebrates and cherishes its openness to the underworked cultured masses, which allots masses of daydream time to lie about in the clover.

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