Photos by Katie K Rex
The hungry techno-philes of Brooklyn have a new place to converge: a bright and airy, retro diner-inspired restaurant called Juno. The spot is owned by John Barclay—a former party promoter and 285 Kent alumni who opened Bossa Nova Civic Club right down the street. In its three year lifespan, Barclay's 4x4 beat watering hole has turned into crucial HQ for the Brooklyn underground dance music scene. Which meant that on Thursday, December 10—Juno's opening night—his new restaurant was packed with Bossa Nova DJs, scene kids, and local admirers.
Walking up to the restaurant, I was greeted by a familiar face at the door: Jay, my favorite member of security at Bossa Nova due to his ability to never forget a face and forever be on positive vibe patrol. Through the front door stood the hostess, Frankie Decaiza Hutchinson, best known as one of the founders of the dance music booking agency with an all female identified roster, Discwoman, and perhaps the most charming girl in Bushwick. I floated through a sea of familiar faces and local techno stars, including fellow DJ Volvox (AKA Arianna Paoletti) and club music recording artist Rena. Essentially, I'm already right at home.
Jacques Renault, founder of famed Brooklyn-based label Let's Play House, was spinning that night, and his groovy disco-house DJ set drew me into the bar area. I made my way from the vibrant white marble bar—which was packed with young Brooklynites drinking cocktails on one side and squeezing into luscious brown leather booths on the other—to the quieter candlelit seating area upstairs. Perched in the corner at the top of the stairs like a bird's nest was the DJ booth, equipped with two Technics 1200 turntables and a Numark 4 channel mixer. I spot Barclay acting as an integral part of the new machine he's built, running food from the kitchen, greeting customers, and checking on each of his employees.
For over a decade, Barclay has been behind many late-night escapades in DIY settings, proving him to be masterful in the art of hedonistic community building. While his other endeavors have involved long hours of debauchery through music and laser-lit foggy dance floors, Barclay is now venturing into a more basic necessity, catering to the pangs of relentless hangovers: food. He's assembled a great team to help him, with food by Sal Cristani, who you may have dined with at other local hotspots like Northeast Kingdom and Five Leaves, coffee by Miami roaster Panther Coffee, and cocktails designed by bar veteran Jordan Schwartz, formerly of Raines Law Room in Chelsea. Fortunately, I was able to catch Barclay for a brief chat.
THUMP: Hey John, congratulations on the opening of Juno! What lead you from opening a techno club like Bossa Nova to a full service restaurant?
John Barclay: Thank you, thank you. I guess I'm an opportunist, so if someone were to offer me an opportunity to work with anything, like beanie babies or gumdrops and I made the assessment that the opportunity would be worthwhile spiritually and/or financially I would probably go for it. But this was appealing to me on a personal level because I live just a few blocks from this location and am always starving, and everyone I know around here is also starving so it seems possibly welcomed and lucrative. Also, I have a lot of restaurant experience.
I have definitely felt that hunger. What's the concept behind Juno?
The main concept is to offer a solution to the relentless, agonizing hunger afflicting Myrtle Avenue. But, we are sort of loosely rooted in the concept of classic NYC diner culture. The idea is for it to be somewhere you can always go and enjoy yourself whether you want a coffee, dinner, or a cocktail experience.
It seems that DJ decks are making their way into the restaurant. How do you plan on incorporating music into the experience at Juno?
We're still trying to figure that out. I think one of the things about the Brooklyn alternative dance scene, or whatever you want to call it, that makes it so interesting is that so many of the notable DJs and musicians are fairly new to techno and house. A lot of people are insecure about this but I think it's what makes it cool.
Six years ago none of these people were playing 132 bpm dark techno, they were playing like post-Italo, dark wave and high life, disco, and some bad stuff too. Everyone sort of abandoned all of that because the techno craze took off.
People were playing a lot of cool stuff before this, and I hope Juno might be a cool spot to re-explore non-clubby sounds. For now we're going to have DJs on weekend nights, maybe during the week too if people can refrain from being annoying. We also have a couple of Bushwick techno celebrities working here, I have them programming our Spotify playlists.
You went in with a bang having [Let's Play House label boss] Jacques Renault play your opening event, who are some of the other DJs visitors can expect to hear?
Tiesto and Deadmau5 are the only ones I can name at the moment.