I was standing at the bar waiting for Bill Murray to arrive. The famous actor who once graced the cover of Cigar Aficionado was slated to play bartender at the grand opening of a new watering hole in Brooklyn called 21 Greenpoint. But an hour into the event on Saturday night, the comedic giant was nowhere to be found. Bill Murray was late.
Nobody seemed surprised. 21 Greenpoint is owned by Homer Murray—Bill Murray's son—and the establishment has a decidedly easygoing vibe. The new bar replaces Homer Murray's previous drink spot, River Styx, which closed in August for a brief hibernation before opening again last weekend with a new name, new look and an improved menu. The elder Murray offered to help tend bar last Friday and Saturday night during the invite-only grand opening celebration. The event kicked off at 7 p.m. each evening, but it was closer to 8 on Saturday when Bill finally strolled into the bar wearing a white linen blazer and an easy smile on his face.
The crowd went wild.
Murray immediately stepped behind the counter and reached for a bottle of tequila. He took a shot with a tall blonde woman and a man wearing a Panama hat. The music went up and Murray went to work, moving down the bar, taking drink orders. Mostly he kept the tequila going. Only a handful of people asked him for a cocktail or a whiskey, and Bill Murray politely obliged and made the drink, but you could tell his heart wasn't in it. His love for tequila shots was too strong.
I watched him work for a while before stepping up to the rail.
"I'll take a tequila," I told him. He nodded his head in approval.
"Bill, do you still smoke cigars?" I asked him.
"Occasionally," he said.
I went into my pocket and took out a Romeo y Julieta Romeo No. 1 Tubo. I handed it to him. Bill Murray looked at it a moment, then broke into a laugh.
"Thanks," he said. "I really appreciate it."
I shook his hand and he gave me a tequila. I took the shot and walked away from the bar feeling accomplished. Yes, I had given Bill Murray a Cuban cigar. My work here was done. I went towards the rear of the bar and found Homer Murray working the crowd and standing by the exposed kitchen, where chefs ran back and forth in front of a large, wood-burning pizza oven. I asked him about the change from River Styx, and what he hoped to achieve with 21 Greenpoint.
"River Styx was great, but we wanted to step it up a notch. Improve upon the concept," Homer Murray said. "We've completely reworked the menu."
Murray and his co-owner, Sydney Silver, have brought on chef Sean Telo to create a daily-evolving menu based on locally sourced, in-season ingredients. Some of the highlights from the menu include steak tartare on roasted marrow bone, oysters on the half shell and neapolitan-style pizzas.
"Any chance of getting a photo of you and your dad together?" I asked him.
Homer shrugged. "It's hard to say," he said. "If he makes his way over here...The timing has to be right. If it happens it happens, you know?"
I understood. Bill Murray was a busy man. Everytime he stepped out from behind the bar, even briefly, the cameras would flash and he seemed to be instantly surrounded by beautiful women and devout fans. I went back to the bar and ordered a few more shots of tequila from Bill. It seemed the appropriate thing to do.
As I was leaving the bar, I noticed the bouncer out front was still struggling to keep the horde of rabid Bill Murray fans at bay. Some had been waiting outside for hours, just to get a chance to see his face.
I started walking away and an eager fan from the line called out to me.
"How'd you get in there?" He asked.
"It's hard to say," I told him. "The timing has to be right."
Now open to the public, 21 Greenpoint is located at 21 Greenpoint Avenue in Brooklyn. The bar is open for dinner Tuesday through Saturday, with all-day service on Sunday.