by Alex Hammel |

You won’t find bottled beer at the new Cliffton in Patchogue. Bottles are just too fancy.

And owner Brian Neal is doubling down on dive.

Neal recently took over The Garage, a nondescript throwback barroom just north of the corner of East Main Street and Maple Avenue in the village.

The tone he’s trying to set there, he says, was inspired by Nirvana’s Come as You Are.

His vision is to build a place for all walks of life to gather, judgement free.

For Neal, who also lives in Patchogue, it’s not just about his daily deals or happy hour specials; it’s about connecting with his customers, seeing they’re content in one another’s company while preserving the downtown’s classic dive bar.

But there will be upgrades.

“Ask everyone who’s been to The Garage to come and see what I have — and what’s going to be in store,” he said. “It is going to be different.”

He plans to utilize every last bit of the barroom. Plus, there’s an outside area that should be ready by spring. There’s a small kitchen in the back of the building that he expects to be operating later this summer. And, he’ll be installing twelve taps, while still pushing cans.

Neal, who grew up in Port Jefferson, has been bartending since 1999 when he got his start at the Harbor Hills Country Club in Port Jeff. He realized soon after getting his bachelor’s degree from Adelphi University in 2004 that owning a bar was what he wanted to do.

The Cliffton opened under Neal’s ownership in December.

Local history buffs would already know that The Clifton was a huge, seasonal hotel located between Bay and Grove avenues on the water. Like many South Shore waterfront hotels, it was said to be used by rum runners during Prohibition.

That’s where Neal got the name from; it was inspired by history, though he spells Cliffton differently to make it his own.

For anyone looking to head to The Cliffton, the hours are 4 p.m. to 4 a.m. Tuesdays through Sundays. The spring hours will be noon to 4 a.m., seven days a week.

Alex Hammel is a journalism student at Suffolk County Community College. He lives in Medford.

The Cliffton’s exterior. The bar is located just north of East Main Street and Maple Avenue, on the west side. (Credit: Alex Hammel)

The interior space and billiards table. The kitchen should be operating by late summer. (Credit: Alex Hammel)