The line was out the door at 206 Nassau Avenue was the report I heard from friends, and when I finally got in it was very difficult to find them given the crowds.
My pal warned me it took him a half-hour to get a drink, so I decided I would wait to sample the wares for another day and just check out the space.
It felt strange to be in a re-vamped, dimly lit Palace bar. In its last longterm iteration, the main room was lit with bright, bold fluorescent lights. The beers on tap cost $1.50, and the back room was almost never open.
Intermittently, there would be a television playing sports interrupted by someone loading up the jukebox with coins. It had all kinds of people inside chatting.
It was one of the few places you could go and actually strike up a comfortable conversation with someone who was not quite like you; perhaps not the same age or background, but still your neighbor.
I've been very excited for the reopening of The Palace because I was gut-wrenched when it closed. Unlike most bars in the neighborhood, the building was actually owned by the family that operated the bar.
We as patrons seem to think businesses should continue on forever, but the reality is that people sometimes get tired of running them. The Palace opted to close. It was not forced by the hand of a landlord wanting to wring blood from a rent-stone.
The new operators are renting the space, so it is not going to be exactly the "same."
So walking in and noticing that cool music was playing - and in fact that a DJ was manning a booth in the back! - and the din was not television vs. jukebox immediately made it feel different.
As I mentioned, the lighting was dim, and the beer and food menu was higher priced than the old-school prices of yesterday. I realized that as much as this was an old space, it was still truly a new bar.
It felt a bit like a small stab in my nostalgic heart. I had lauded the opening as a great community feel-good story: reopened by longtime neighborhood restaurant and bar folks who knew and loved the old bar
Knowing them and loving some of their previous establishments, I had expectations that it would be the "same."
Talking to a friend who owns a cafe snapped me back to reality. "How could they possibly charge $1.50 for beer when they don't own the building?" he asked me.
And I immediately knew he was right. My expectations were unreasonable. The bar could be different and still be good.
New things can resemble but never embody what they once were. Change is transformational, situations are ever evolving.
The new Palace can still be great. It can still be affordable without being super cheap, it can be community minded without directly resembling what it had been before.
It can restore the interior and honor the past without attempting to be the past. After all, we don't want a Disneyworld neighborhood full of fake simulacra of what Greenpoint once was.
Also, we don't want to force our friends to continue to do things that they are done with, like operate businesses they no longer want to handle.
We need to make space for something inclusive that respects our neighborhood's history, makes it possible for all to participate in some form, and also allows the business to thrive as a modern livelihood that reflects the time we are living in.
It is not fair for us to expect a time capsule. It is fair and reasonable to expect, and celebrate, a respect to precedent, to history, to the special community that we share. It's important not to confuse the two.
It's difficult to adjust and move forward alongside change, but it's what we must do. And it has it's own rewards that are new, special and meaningful, too.
We need to be open to the new, especially when its created with the intention of including and respecting us all.