By Tom Momberg
They are an American phenomenon — drinking establishments where bartenders spend more time texting on their phones than assisting customers, or where patrons keep their eyes glued to televisions rather than talking to the person next to them.
So when business partners Joe Figliolia and Dan Berkery set up shop in the heart of Ridgewood, they strived to duplicate the European beer culture: Social bartenders, good ale and no TVs.
The owners spent a fair amount of time in Amsterdam and realized drinking was much more social and relaxed.
“We wondered is this something we could do back home?” Figliolia said. “The more we thought about it and talked about it, it was something we thought about at this stage in life: We could do something we wanted to do more than something we could make money at. I didn’t want to get into the bar business just to be in the bar business.”
Figliolia and Berkery opened The Monk, a Belgian beer bar, in December. Figliolia said he and his partner like the business model, because it gives them the opportunity to meet good people in a diverse neighborhood and spend their time sharing stories.
“It takes some getting used to for some people. It’s not for everybody, but if people give it a shot, people often surprise themselves,” which Figliolia said is because people are generally good-natured and want to make connections with other people, not stare at a television.
The owners said it took several years to find a location in a Brooklyn or Queens neighborhood they saw as a good fit. As former residents of Ridgewood, they finally settled on their location, 67-68 Fresh Pond Road
Ridgewood has been identified by the city as one of the next neighborhoods with tremendous potential for growth and change. Figliolia said that was not a determining factor for starting his business in the neighborhood. Even with all the changes in the neighborhood, a Belgian beer bar is a stretch, serving a very specific niche of patrons
“We had a history here, and we knew Ridgewood was a solid working-class area. So we just kind of came full circle,” Figliolia said.
The Monk specializes in Belgian beer styles, which generally have higher alcohol content and cost a little more. The bar still offers a range of craft beer from breweries like Founders, Oscar Blues, Lagunitas, Hennepin and Stone, as well as a moderate wine selection.
The bar offers 32 bottle beers and eight on tap. Though sample flights are not offered, free draught samples are given to help customers choose something to their liking.
The bar also has a large open-floor plan with plenty of seating, as well as a spacious backyard patio. It serves some German and Bavarian-influenced snacks, too, like cheese and meat platters and fresh daily hand-made Laugen pretzels.
A happy hour runs from 5 to 7 p.m. Monday thru Friday for $1 off any beer.
Reach reporter Tom Momberg by e-mail at tmomb