Driving down Main Street in Greenport Village, you feel a crisp breeze coming through the windows. The clock has just struck 7 p.m., and it’s dark outside, cool and quiet. But if you listen a little closer you’ll hear the faint sound of warm, soulful music coming from a dimly lit storefront.
From the street, the main floor at MEET, located in the historic Stirling Square complex, looks closed. But turn the handle and walk downstairs and you’ll find yourself at a lively party reminiscent of any other October night – in the 1920s. Though not by design, the Thursday night jam sessions at MEET can’t help but recall Greenport’s days as a rum-running town during Prohibition (which, incidentally, was repealed 80 years ago this December), from its brick walls to the candle-lit bar and rows and rows of locally produced wine, beers and spirits.
Behind the bar, a small white door leads to an underground cellar, a sort of dirt alcove that was once used to store illegal alcohol and is still in use today. From there, another door tucked in a corner leads to a series of secret tunnels that once allowed criminals to transport alcohol to and from the premises.
MEET is the brainchild of former White House sous chef Keith Luce, who purchased Stirling Square in March and has transformed it into a culinary destination, opening four separate storefronts: MAIN, NOSH, PREP and MEET. Unlike the other establishments, MEET does not serve food but was designed instead as a gathering place where patrons can sample New York State wines, beer and spirits and attend cooking demonstrations. It also sells high-end ingredients, cooking accessories and prepackaged foods from The Square’s other eateries.
Before MEET officially launched in August, Mr. Luce, a musician himself, opened it for open-mic nights on Thursdays. To help organize things, he enlisted the help of local performers and longtime friends Chris Hurley, Rob Europe and Joe “Southold Slim” Sferlazza, his former high school wrestling coach. The three also host the event and perform each week.
Mr. Sferlazza is also the mastermind behind the décor. All the paintings, photos and artwork that line the walls of MEET are from his personal collection and are “permanently on loan” to Mr. Luce.
“It has been a mad success,” Mr. Sferlazza said. “It’s incredibly busy; you can’t fit a quarter in sideways. Open-mic night doesn’t begin to describe it. It’s a super jam session.”
The Thursday sessions have become a regular who’s who of local musicians, Mr. Sferlazza said. Even Mr. Luce is known to hop on the drums from time to time.
“A good term, it’s ‘chill,’ ” said manager Bob Anderson. “The whole idea is to meet and gather and have the locals showcase their talent. Everyone works together and feeds off each other.”
Open-mic nights start at 7 p.m. on Thursdays at MEET, located at 214 Main St. in Greenport.