The Leif Bar to re-open in Bay Ridge

Residents rejoice as bartenders revive 55-year-old Irish bar

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A beloved Bay Ridge watering hole is getting a new leif on life.

The Leif Bar — which closed in 2012 — will return to its old spot at the corner of Senator Street and Fifth Avenue next month, thanks to two longtime bartenders.

“The Leif was a landmark. It’s a shame it ever closed,” said Kenny Graham, who poured beer at the 55-year-old pub for more than a decade — and is bringing it back now with partner Michael Gallagher, a 20-year-veteran of the tavern.

An Irish bar with a Nordic name, the Leif’s closure seemed like the death knell of Bay Ridge’s once-dominant Celtic and Scandinavian culture in a corner of the neighborhood that has become largely Arabic. But its former owners say that they closed down from pure exhaustion.

“It was a lot of work, and after so many years, it was enough,” said Julie Walsh, whose father founded the Leif in 1967.

Walsh’s family owns the building, and they soon leased it to a new establishment, the Corner Kitchen and Bar. After the Corner Kitchen closed last month, Walsh said she was overjoyed when Graham and Gallagher approached her about bringing back the Leif.

“I feel good about it, because everybody loved the Leif, and they still do,” said Walsh. “Everybody missed it.”

Graham said he feels confident that the venture will be a success, even though the area around the bar has dramatically changed.

“When you got a bar that was there 50 years, people are going to want to come back,” the tap man said. “We’re going to have the right clientele. We’re going to succeed.”

The Leif’s second coming — slated for next month — is already winning plaudits from old customers missing its atmosphere and hearty Irish fare.

“I’m thrilled to see the real Leif come back,” said Ridge leader and man-about-town Larry Morrish. “They always had the best corned beef sandwiches.”

Posted 12:00 am, April 25, 2014
Reach reporter Will Bredderman at wbredderman@cnglocal.com or by calling (718) 260-4507. Follow him at twitter.com/WillBredderman.
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