Shaft Alley Saloon

"We have mostly men here - very few women.  No unattached women permitted at the bar. That’s a simple way of preventing trouble."

One of the best known watering holes in Red Hook was the Shaft Alley saloon. Fortune magazine, in a 1937 essay about the New York Waterfront, said:

You won’t find enlisted men over on Columbia Street or Hamilton Avenue, but you will find merchant seamen, longshoremen, shipyard workers, and bums.  You will find all races also – Spaniards, Filipinos, Chinese, Malayans, Italians and Negroes.  One of the most popular joints … is Shaft Alley on Hamilton Avenue.

In 1953 Shaft Alley was still being written up as the place to drink in Red Hook.

Shaft Alley, Brooklyn’s most authentic waterfront cafe is at Hamilton Avenue and Imlay St. … complete with corrugated iron ceiling and long serpentine bar. Frank Cioffi is the owner of this antique bistro about a half century old… The  bar runs  right through from Hamilton Avenue to Summit St., fronting in Imlay Street.  Sawdust or ‘almost anything’ is on the floor, according to the management.  Waterfront small fry and executives bend elbows in this oddly exclusive hostelry.

Toddo Vicere, bartender at Shaft Alley described his customers as being both shipping business exucatives and manual laboreres:
“The waterfront men and the higher-ups drink here.  We have fellows from the steamship companies and men from Columbia St. The Sottnek bosses and men from New York Dock look in on us once in a while.  The bosses drink scotch and the men drink boilermakers. A boilermaker is a shot of whiskey followed by a glass of beer.  You get a lot of mileage on that.

...They can sure dump it and still go back to work.  Many of the men who drink here can take a dozen and not show it.”

...The businessmen order martinis and Manhattans quite often.  The longshoremen and shipyard workers rarely if ever, drink a cocktail. I think they consider it affected.

...We have mostly men here - very few women.  No unattached women permitted at the bar. That’s a simple way of preventing trouble.

Shaft Alley also ran a check cashing business, making a profit on workers who did not have banking accounts.

In 1962, the Brooklyn Eagle, reported that the Shaft Alley Bar and Grill had recieved a liquor license for a location at 51 Hamilton.  The establishment had presumably moved there to make way for highway and port construction.



Source: Morrell, John D., (1921-1988    ) [#49 Hamilton Avenue and #51 Hamilton Avenue.] 6/15/1959 From the collection of the Brooklyn Historical Society, ID: V1974.4.1258 Rights: RESTRICTED. at: View File Details Page