Coney Island’s Beer Island is no more. The popular bar that sold a wide variety of beer on a sandy beach adjacent to the Boardwalk was trashed yesterday as you can see in the above photo. ATZ called Anthony Berlingieri, the bar’s co-owner, to ask what happened. “I wouldn’t say it’s trashed, it’s scrapped,” he said of the bar. “I told people, take whatever you want.” On Saturday and Sunday treasure hunters were combing through the ruins, picking up signs, plastic trophies and other souvenirs. The bar was one of the Boardwalk businesses evicted from City-owned property that had until November 4th to vacate the premises.
“The last thing I wanted to see was them use that bar that I built with my own hands,” said Berlingieri, who believes that Zamperla USA, the company that leases the City’s property in Coney Island is “looking to copy it and not give me a chance to run it. They would not even sit down to talk with me.”
After hearing the news that fellow evictees Ruby’s Bar and Paul’s Daughter were offered leases when a Miami restaurateur suddenly pulled out of a deal to develop the Boardwalk, Berlingieri phoned to pitch his proposal. But he says Valerio Ferrari, president of Zamperla, replied that it was time for him to move on. “If he would have said it in front of me, you would have read about it in the paper,” says Berlingieri, noting that he and his partner offered to pay for a redo of Beer Island, conforming in every detail to Ferrari’s “vision.” “I told him, just send me the blueprints. We will go partners, 50-50, on the gross. Not a dollar out of your pocket.”
Beer Island was launched in partnership with the owner of Cha Cha’s and a local arcade in 2008 on the site of the miniature golf course evicted by Thor Equities. When ATZ wrote about the bar last month in “Butterflies and Beer Island,” we discovered some reviews on Yelp that entertainingly convey its appeal. More than a decade ago, Berlingieri created another original, Shoot the Freak, which was evicted last year to make way for the new Scream Zone entrance. At the time of last year’s evictions, Zamperla issued a statement saying “We look forward to creating an incredible new experience on the boardwalk, while continuing to honor Coney Island’s magnificent past.”
“We kept Coney Island a place people came to all these years,” says Berlingieri. “The City gave it to a bunch of people who never stepped foot in Coney Island.” He is bitter that Zamperla pays only $100,000 rent and a small percentage of receipts for all of the City property they lease in Coney Island. Each of the Boardwalk businesses has been paying $100,000 per year rent, plus a $10,000 surcharge initiated this year. “Where do we go? It’s like a death sentence,” he says. “It’s not like there’s twenty amusement parks to move to. You’ve heard of the American Dream. It doesn’t apply in New York.”
The current tally is 7 out of the 11 businesses that were Hy Singer’s or Astroland’s and then Thor Equities tenants before the Boardwalk property was bought by the City of New York in 2009 are now goners–closed, moved, put out of business. Four businesses closed and moved out by the deadline of November 4th: Beer Island, Cha Cha’s, Gyro Corner Clam Bar and Coney Island Souvenir Shop. Steve’s Grill House has to move out within ten days. In addition, John’s Deli, which subleased from Steve’s, and Maritza’s Souvenir Shop (formerly in the now-demolished Henderson Building) on the Stillwell side of Cha Cha’s had to move out. Pio Pio Riko did not join the Coney Island 8 in contesting last year’s evictions and its location became the site of Coney Cones. Four Boardwalk businesses were invited back, but lease deals cannot be confirmed: Nathan’s, Lola Star Boutique, Ruby’s Bar and Paul’s Daughter. Some deals are still being negotiated and could go either way, according to the Coney Island Rumor Mill.
Asked if he planned to relocate his two businesses, Berlingieri said Beer Island is over because Zamperla plans to copy it. As for Shoot the Freak, he would reopen it if he could get a lease that wasn’t year to year. “I took two empty lots and turned them into the coolest things in Coney Island –Shoot the Freak and Beer Island. I can’t build it and not see it stay.”
Another casualty of the eviction of the Boardwalk businesses is the L.A. based Gents of Desire’s famed mural “Hey Joey!” A couple of days ago, Hey Joey’s face and plate of clams were scraped off and made into ghost signage by persons unknown. We expect that this sad but apt transformation will make it less painful when the mural is inevitably painted over to make way for the new. Many thanks to photographer Bruce Handy for these photos from his Coney Island Photo Diary.
Related posts on ATZ…
December 9, 2011: Paul’s Daughter Signs 8-Year Lease for Coney Island Boardwalk
October 11, 2011: Photo of the Day: Butterflies & Beer Island by Bruce Handy
October 10, 2011: Photo of the Day: Coney Island’s Famed “Hey Joey!” Doomed
December 22, 2010: Photo of the Day: Shoot the Freak Is Boarded Up