Brooks 1890 Restaurant, one of the oldest and most unheralded restaurants in the City, and one of my personal favorites, is closed for renovation. When it reopens, it will be under new management.
I had met the longtime owner Bill "Brooks" Gounaris just last fall. He had made no mention of his intention to sell the place. Gounaris was not the original Brooks; he bought the restaurant after the real Mr. Brooks died, by his own hand, in the 1970s. (He was reportedly a heavy gambler and got into a bit of trouble.)
Gounaris and I met upon the occasion of my having learned (with the help and industry or two loyal readers) the identities of "K" and H" on the stained-glass hood behind the bar. These were Martin Heilbut and Herman Kleefeld, who purchased the building—the former Long Island City City Hall—in 1910. During the next decade, it was referred to by several names, including Kleefeld Hall, Kleefeld's saloon, Kleefeld's Hotel and just plain Hielbut and Kleefeld, until the 1920s, when it began to be referred to as the Court Square Restaurant.
"Under new management" doesn't sound good. Gounaris had always been respectful of the joint's old time decor, particularly that stained glass. But that was because he chose to. Nothing of the building, inside or out, is protected. It could easily be gutted and drained of all character. The door was open when I passed and everything looked the same. But work had just begun. A man outside was taking the globe lamps off the outside fixtures.