It’s Friday night in Brooklyn and I’m on a reconnaissance mission to finally check out a venue that has local brownstone residents buzzing. Tucked away on busy Atlantic Avenue between a string of antique showrooms and overpriced boutique stores, there's a new high-end cocktail lounge that's been four years in the making. Unlike many nightspots with arbitrary names, this bar's moniker references the life of the building whose birth date and previous name are still engraved on the original façade. Welcome to Talmud Torah Beth Jacob Joseph est. 1917, now known as Deity.
Deity is the vision of financial consultant Caio Dunson (pron: Kuy-yu) and his fashion-designer wife Kristine. They bought the dilapidated building, which had not seen shulgoers for over 30 years, in 2003. The space had been an antique warehouse in the interim. The couple, with the help of family, friends and talented Brooklyn artists, tirelessly transformed the interior while consciously preserving the integrity of the building. They turned the top two levels into their residence. The bar below, as they see it, is like an extension of their living room.
The exterior hasn't changed much since the early 1900’s when Yeshiva students entered the hallowed building to study Gemorah and daven in its synagogue. Hebrew letters are inscribed into the limestone while decorative Magen Davids encircle the entrance. Tonight, a guy in a fedora hat smokes outside the wrought iron gates and a stylish brunette hostess in a red trench coat invites partygoers into the new sanctuary.