Siberian Exile

  HE’S NOT LOOKING for a ton of space. The original Siberia measured a mere 9 feet wide, he said.

 

HE’S NOT LOOKING for a ton of space. The original Siberia measured a mere 9 feet wide, he said.

Nor does he demand much in the way of amenities. The more recent location even lacked such basic bar staples as beer taps.

“What I do is organic,” Mr. Westmoreland explained, noting that the various artifacts that adorned the previous bars’ shabby chic interiors were often brought in by patrons. “People come in and put their love into it,” he said. “Let’s say it’s a voodoo bar. … I’ll have guys coming in saying, ‘Hey man, I’ve got this shrunken head.’”

His recent interest in the borough of Kings comes down to simple economics. “Brooklyn is a better choice because the rents are low,” he said. “You can still charge the same amount of money. And I’m not worried about the crowd. People will come, man. I’m not worried about that.”

And yet, with the market softening in recent weeks, new opportunities have also arisen elsewhere, including in Siberia’s ancestral home of Hell’s Kitchen.

“I found a place in the city where they want $5,000 a month,” said Mr. Westmoreland. That’s even cheaper than the $6,000 monthly rate on Siberia’s prior lease, signed in 2001. He added that the venue in question, which he declined to identify, even included an existing liquor license. “Dude, it’s off the hook!”

It’s a deal Mr. Westmoreland is eager to strike, just as soon as his silent partner gives the go-ahead. “I’ve got to see if I can convince him to do it,” Mr. Westmoreland said. “If he says yes, I’ll open immediately.”

That’s not to say, however, that the charismatic barman has entirely turned his back on the outer boroughs. “Then, in the next six months,” he added, “I want to open places in Brooklyn all over the place.”

He further suggested that various celebrity friends may even be enlisted as investors and partners in the future locations.

“I know a lot of people,” Mr. Westmoreland said. “I know Tony Bourdain, guys like that, and they could open places, or their friends could open places.

“With what I know, and a few dollars, we can open clubs everywhere,” he added.

Well, maybe not everywhere.

Turns out, there are some places in Brooklyn that even the operator of a notoriously dank shithole like Siberia won’t go—Gowanus, for instance, Mr. Westmoreland said: “I don’t like the smell.”

cshott@observer.com

Siberian Exile