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Harlem Beer Garden Prepares for Long-Awaited Opening

By DNAinfo Staff on July 7, 2010 6:35am

By Simone Sebastian

DNAInfo Reporter/Producer

CENTRAL HARLEM — First it was supposed to open in early spring. Then sometime in May. Then last week, a New York Times blogger announced it was opening July 2.

But as fireworks exploded overhead on the Fourth of July, bier international — Harlem's most anticipated beer garden — remained dark.

Now the owners of bier international (they don't capitalize the name) say they'll open their doors next week. Sometime.

"I thought it would be the end of this week," said Chris Pollok, co-owner of bier international. "But it will probably be next week."

Next week. Sure. Provided the floors get finished, the piles of unopened boxes get sorted through, the kitchen appliances get installed, and the bubble wrap gets removed from that big television hanging behind the bar.

Pollok and his partner Ousmane Keita say bier international, at 2099 Frederick Douglass Boulevard near 113th Street, will be Harlem's first beer garden since Prohibition.

The bar will open with 10 beers on tap, Pollok said, and eventually expand to as many as 20. They'll include imports from Belgium, Ireland, the Czech Republic, France and other countries. They'll also serve wine and food, tapas style.

The opening of bier international has been anticipated since before Pollok and Keita closed their previous venture, Lava Gina, in April. The Lower East Side world music lounge was open for 10 years, according to its website.

Pollok and Keita want to maintain their international theme, featuring special beers and music at the beer garden during international holidays and events, like Oktoberfest.

They planned to capitalize their opening on the most international of events. But, "we missed the World Cup," Pollok said, exposing his disappointment.

Bier international's website still says "coming soon ... spring 2010". And the bar will have to correct its business cards, which also announce a spring opening.

Pollock blames the delay on "bureaucratic hurdles."

"It's hard to do business in the city," he said. "You have to wait for this inspector or that inspector."

Keita noted that there were also delays in the formation of the parent company for the bar.

Still, the owners remain optimistic about bier international's future. Though Keita says the commercial boom in Harlem contributed to some of the delays, it will also be a benefit when the bar does open.

"The neighborhood is developing at a rapid pace and there's a diversity of people," Keita said. "I think this area, a lot of people will be talking about it because of all the new stuff coming here."

He added, "And most importantly, there's not a single beer garden."