LOWER EAST SIDE — Thirsty and nostalgic patrons lined the walls of Max Fish Monday night to bid farewell to their favorite neighborhood dive bar.
After a 23-year run, the popular bar on Ludlow Street near East Houston Street will close its doors to set up a new location in Williamsburg.
“I came to this bar when it opened in 1989,” Jim Moore, 44, said. “It’s a character bar, everyone in here is a character.”
The bar is a favorite watering hole for a lot of local skate boarders who, like Moore, come in to relax after a day of skating. They say Max Fish is a relaxed place to be with friends where no one cares about what you do for a living or how expensive your clothes are.
As locals reminisced about the time someone passed out on the sidewalk or somebody thought it’d be funny to take off their pants in the middle of the bar, DJs played live sets all night.
“It’s a close family,” said Max Peebles, 24, one of the DJs. “The people that drink here hang out outside the bar too. To me, making new friends is the most important thing about this bar.”
Max Fish almost closed in 2011 due to escalating rent but managed to get an extension on its lease. That won’t be the case this time around as the dive bar moves across the East River.
“I’m taking the bar with me,” said Gregg Woolard, 50, who designed the place 23 years ago.
He hopes the new place, located at 132 Metropolitan Ave., will be open by August. But don’t expect a finished product.
“We’ll probably [install] the bar to open it up and see where it goes from there,” he said.
That’s a similar strategy that made Max Fish the staple it is today. Local artists would paint murals on the wall, bartenders decided to put artificial turf above the bar, and over time the place developed its own unique vibe.
“We have the weirdest group of people,” Malik McDaniels, 25, one of the bouncers said. “We got punk dudes and rap dudes drinking in the same bar.”
One of his favorite memories of Max Fish was working during Hurricane Irene. Despite the city's storm warnings, everyone inside the bar drank without a care 'til 2 a.m.
The Williamsburg location will be a lot bigger than the spot on the Lower East Side. It will have two stories and may be able to host more live bands or movie events, Woolard said.
Still, some patrons don’t think the new place will have the same vibe as the original.
“If it’s all about the name then every McDonalds would be great,” said Rhamier Auguste, 22, another skater who loves Max Fish and is sad to see it go.