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The Red Doors Bar & Grill

The Red Doors Bar & Grill, 1205 Surf Avenue, Coney Island. May 13, 2015. Photo © Tricia Vita

Coney Island’s new Red Doors Bar & Grill opened its doors for drinks for the first time on Wednesday. ATZ sampled a raspberry lemonade (minus the vodka) from their cocktail menu. Restaurant consultant Gina Weinstein has put together a new menu and “cool, tattooish” decor mixing industrial design with posters of old Coney Island for this space on Surf Avenue near West 12th Street. Unlike many of the recently opened or soon-to-open eateries in Coney Island, it’s neither a chain nor a franchise! Red Doors’ owner Oleg says he expects the restaurant will open Memorial Day weekend.

The Red Doors Bar & Grill

Industrial design and posters of old Coney Island at The Red Doors Bar & Grill, May 13, 2015. Photo © Tricia Vita

Menu selections include fresh baked pretzels with spicy beer mustard, pulled pork sliders, chicken quesadilla, buffalo chicken spring rolls, Caesar salad, a variety of burgers, fries, beer battered onion rings, and donuts made to order.

For vegetarians, there’s veggies and hummus: “Balsamic grilled asparagus, red pepper, portobello, carrots, purple cabbage, roasted red pepper hummus. served with warm tortillas.”

Raspberry lemonade

Raspberry lemonade at Red Doors Bar & Grill, May 13, 2015. Photo © Tricia Vita

The new Mom & Pop joins Grimaldi’s Pizzeria, Applebee’s, Subway Cafe, Dunkin Donuts and Surf 12 Nightclub on the north side of Surf. IHOP, Checkers and Johnny Rockets franchises are under construction.

This location at 1205 Surf Avenue was formerly Bratva Bar and Coney Island Bar & Grill, which closed last year.

Red Doors Bar & Grill

Red Doors Bar & Grill logo features the famous Steeplechase Funny Face and the Wonder Wheel

Related posts on ATZ…

April 30, 2015: Thor Equities Recruits Jeffrey Deitch, Dan Biederman & Smorgasburg to Dress Up Vacant Coney Lot

April 27, 2015: Coney Island 2015: Update on Wahlburgers, Temporary Fair at Thor’s Vacant Lots

April 21, 2015: Coney Island 2015: New York Air Show Set For August 29-30

January 29, 2015: Coney Island 2015: Subway Cafe, Sushi Lounge, IHOP, Checkers, Johnny Rockets

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Wahlburgers

Slated to open this summer, Wahlburgers will have a rooftop overlooking Thor’s Stillwell lots. April 18, 2015. Photo © Tricia Vita

Last week, Wahlburgers released details of the 6,800 square foot franchise restaurant currently under construction in Coney Island and slated to open this summer. Eater dubbed it “a massive indoor/outdoor extravaganza.” Rooftop patio dining with a retractable glass roof sounds spectacular but it’s a stretch to say Wahlburgers “will overlook Coney Island’s famous boardwalk and beach” as the pr copy claims.

Located in Thor Equities’ retail building on Stillwell Avenue across from Nathan’s, the celebrity burger palace overlooks the Bowery and Thor CEO Joe Sitt’s long-vacant lots. That’s why we’re betting the rumors that began in November and continued this year about attractions coming to those lots for the summer are indeed true.

Wahlburgers

Architectural Rendering of Wahlburgers in Coney Island

Sources have told ATZ that Thor’s lots will host food and merch in 20 trailers. Rides and other attractions are now said to be part of the mix. Ironically there was an entire amusement park including bumper boats and a miniature golf course there before Joe Sitt bought the property in 2006 and promptly turned it into “Thor Equities Corridors of Blight.” The last time a carnival was here was 2012. The lots remained vacant in 2014 as well as in 2010 and 2013, when the City issued a stop-work order on a permit for “temporary parking for the amusement district.”

MegaWhirl

Prototype MegaWhirl ride, abandoned after the 2012 season and damaged by Hurricane Sandy, is finally being demolished. April 25, 2015. Photo © anonymouse via AmusingtheZillion

While the DOB has yet to issue permits for a “temporary fair,” the property is being prepped in earnest. Last week, the MegaWhirl ride, abandoned after it debuted here in 2012 and was damaged by Hurricane Sandy, was being demolished and tossed in a dumpster. Underground electric utilities were installed last month and the Bowery was cleared of concession trailers adjacent to the lot.

ATZ’s first post back in December about the celebrity burger franchise opening in Coney Island and subsequent updates continue to be as popular as posts about Friday night fireworks! That makes us think it’s going to be a magnet for some of Mark Wahlberg’s 15+ million Facebook fans. The Wahlburgers restaurants are the backdrop for the A&E TV reality series about Mark, Donnie and Paul Wahlberg’s adventures in the burger business. This summer’s opening of the Coney Island location is being scripted into the show. The original opening date of early May has been pushed back to June.

Wahlburgers

Signage on Wahlburgers currently under construction in Coney Island. Photo © Tricia Vita

UPDATE May 6, 2015:

Thor Equities has recruited Jeffrey Deitch, art advisor and former director of the Museum of Contemporary Art (MOCA) in Los Angeles, and food vendors from Brooklyn’s Smorgasburg to help activate one of their long vacant lots in Coney Island. Biederman Redevelopment Ventures (BRV), the consulting firm run by Bryant Park’s Dan Biederman, was hired by Thor to develop events and programming for and manage the lot as well as the one on the east side of Stillwell There will also be a music stage with live performances throughout the summer. (Thor Equities Recruits Jeffrey Deitch, Dan Biederman & Smorgasburg to Dress Up Vacant Coney Lot, ATZ, April 30, 2015).

Biederman will also manage a second long-vacant lot, on the east side of Stillwell Avenue, across from Coney Walls. “Our programming is still in flux, though we hope to announce some exciting things next week,” Ben Donsky, BRV’s senior project manager, told ATZ. “There will probably be performances on both lots. Gordon Lee of El Dorado is going to be putting up midway games along the Bowery.

Related posts on ATZ…

April 10, 2015: Coney Island 2015: Power Surge and Enterprise-Style Ride Set for Comeback

February 13, 2015: Coney Island 2015: IHOP Franchisee Signs Lease for 5,400-Square-Foot Surf Ave Store

January 29, 2015: Coney Island 2015: Subway Cafe, Sushi Lounge, IHOP, Checkers, Johnny Rockets

December 5, 2014: Wahlburgers Burger Franchise to Open in Coney Island

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IhopAfter weeks of rumors and negotiations, it’s finally official: the lease for a 5,400 square foot IHOP at 1019 Surf Avenue in Coney Island was signed on Thursday, broker Joe Vitacco told ATZ. The franchisee who will be operating the restaurant is Bryan McKenzie, who owns an IHOP in New Jersey. Construction is expected to take about four months after the landlord completes the vanilla shell.

The one-story building at 1019 across the street from Luna Park is a longtime furniture store, which is not among the use groups permitted by the zoning. The space is being subdivided into six storefronts by the landlord and the stores are in the process of getting new street numbers. IHOP will combine the three stores on the far left and the soon-to-open Subway Cafe has the one on the right. Two remaining storefronts totalling 3,000 square feet are expected to be snapped up by another franchisee.

Why is Surf Avenue becoming a mecca for franchises? “The franchise is a preference of the landlords in Coney Island,” says Vitacco, who has leased space on Surf Avenue to Johnny Rockets, Subway Cafe and Rita’s Italian Ice, as well as to Brooklyn-based bakery Piece of Velvet for their third store. On Mermaid Avenue, he has leased to such Mom & Pops as a fish store and a Chinese bakery, as well as a Jamaican patty store franchisee.

Surf Avenue

1209 Surf Avenue in Coney Island. Store with shuttered gates is the future home of IHOP. January 25, 2015. Photo © Tricia Vita

“First of all, the franchisees are better funded. They are required to have half a million to two million in assets. They are trained and helped by the franchise company and have a high chance of success.” Many also own multiple businesses, which enables them to spread the risk. The Johnny Rockets franchisee owns several other franchise restaurants, Vitacco says.

Unlike Manhattan, where Mom and Pops are being forced out by landlords who triple the rent and then turn around and lease to chains or upscale businesses, many of the new franchises on Coney Island’s Surf Avenue are replacing illegal furniture stores which have existed for years in defiance of the zoning. Amid the influx of already opened national chains and franchises such as It’Sugar, Applebee’s, Rita’s Italian Ice, and Dunkin’ Donuts on Surf Avenue, there have also been a few new Mom & Pops like Lunatics Ice Cream and Luna Park Cafe, which have no connection to Luna Park.

The relatively large size of the stores is also a factor. The average price per square foot on the north side of Surf is $50.00 per square foot, Vitacco tells ATZ. On Mermaid Avenue it is $45 per square foot. “The difference in price from space to space depends upon the amount of landlord work. A space can be rented in ‘as is condition,’ as a Vanilla Box or as built to suit. The conditions will affect the rent.”

Asked why we aren’t seeing more a diversity of businesses instead of all restaurants and food? Is it too expensive? Vitacco says, “Because food pays the highest per square foot. Remember on Surf Avenue we are limited by the Coney Island C7 special zoning.”

Sky Rapids Ride

Sky Rapids Ride at 1223 Surf Avenue and Arcade at 1217 Surf Ave. Coney Island. January 1, 1979. Photo by Abe Feinstein via Coney Island History Project

According to the rezoning of 2009, permitted uses include:

–Open and enclosed amusements with limited accessory retail. Amusement uses would also include virtual reality and simulated gaming, dark rides, recreational sports facilities and water parks.

–Restaurants of any size, including those with entertainment and dancing. It would also include other complementary uses to amusements uses such as performance venues, bathhouses, breweries, tattoo parlors or wedding chapels.

–Retail and service uses complementary to amusement uses and beach activities such as arts and crafts production and sales, bicycle sales and repair, gift shops, and beach furniture stores. These uses would be limited in size and frontage.

Related posts on ATZ…

January 29, 2015: Coney Island 2015: Subway Cafe, Sushi Lounge, IHOP, Checkers, Johnny Rockets

December 5, 2014: Wahlburgers Burger Franchise to Open in Coney Island

September 11, 2013: Subway Cafe to Replace Furniture Store on Coney Island’s Surf Ave

December 19, 2012: Will Coney Island’s Surf Ave Become a Mecca for Franchises?

Read Full Post »

Wahlburgers Coney Island

The location of the Wahlburgers celebrity burger franchise opening in Coney Island was publicly revealed for the first time today when signage went up on Thor Equities’ retail building. It’s no surprise –Coney insiders had already guessed because there’s one vacant retail space built for a restaurant and no other comparable spot for lease in the amusement area. In addition to the ground floor, the restaurant space offers rooftop seating.

The sign says “Coming Spring 2015 – Wahlburgers – Our Family – Our Story – Our Burgers” and promotes their website. The next guessing game is when the celebrity brothers–Donnie, Mark and Paul Wahlberg– and a TV crew will turn up in Coney for a site visit. A May 1st opening date was previously announced.

The Wahlberg family’s adventures in the burger business is the subject of an A & E TV reality series that debuted in January 2014. The Coney Island location and the store’s opening are being scripted into the show’s 2015 season.

The building on Surf and Stillwell Avenues across from Nathan’s Famous has been long touted by Thor as “The Retail Ride of a Lifetime.” Current tenants include It’Sugar, Rainbow Shop, Surf & Stillwell Brooklyn Apparel Co. and two mini-arcades required by the City’s zoning law. Wahlburgers’ immediate neighbors will be the Brooklyn Nets Shop and Brooklyn Rock, which sells hand-printed clothing and gifts.

The company announced in December that New York-based franchisee Big Apple Burgers is preparing to launch six restaurants in Manhattan and one in Coney Island. Wahlburgers will join a number of other national chains and franchises slated to open this year in Coney Island. As ATZ reported earlier this week, Johnny Rockets, Checkers, and Subway Cafe are currently under construction, IHOP is finalizing a lease deal, and the Boston Beer Corporation got a license to operate a brewery to house their Coney Island Brewing Company division.

UPDATE April 27, 2015:

Last week, Wahlburgers released details of the 6,800 square foot franchise restaurant currently under construction in Coney Island and slated to open this summer. Read more at Coney Island 2015: Update on Wahlburgers, Temporary Fair at Thor’s Vacant Lots

Related posts on ATZ…

January 20, 2015: Boston Beer Corp’s Coney Island Brewery Gets Conditional Approval from NYSLA

January 29, 2015: Coney Island 2015: Subway Cafe, Sushi Lounge, IHOP, Checkers, Johnny Rockets

December 5, 2014: Wahlburgers Burger Franchise to Open in Coney Island

December 19, 2012: Will Coney Island’s Surf Ave Become a Mecca for Franchises?

Read Full Post »

coney Island Brewing Co.

Coney Island Brewing Co, and The Plunge, a Belgian-style Ale, were among the sponsors of this year’s Polar Bear Plunge. Photo via Coney Island Brewing Facebook.

The Coney Island Brewing Company, whose craft beers celebrate the iconography of Coney Island, may soon have a place to call its own on Surf Avenue. Boston Beer Corporation, which applied in September for a license to open a brewery under the trade name Coney Island Brewing Company at 1904 Surf Avenue, received a conditional letter of approval from the NY State Liquor Authority last week.

The line of Coney Island beers was relaunched in 2013 after being sold to Alchemy & Science, a division of Boston’s Samuel Adams. The brewery will be located in a retail space on the outside of MCU Park formerly occupied by Danny Boy’s Pizza and adjacent to Peggy O’Neill’s and the MCU Credit Union.

1904 Surf Avenue

Coney Island Brewing Co has applied for a brewer’s license at the 1904 Surf Ave store formerly occupied by Danny Boy’s Pizza. November 16, 2014. Photo © Tricia Vita

A conditional approval letter is issued upon completion of the license application process but prior to approval of the premises. According to the NYSLA, after a brewer’s license is granted, the permittee has the option of applying for a retail license and tasting permit.

“We’re excited about the opportunity,” Kathleen Barnes of the Coney Island Brewing Company told ATZ last year. She said they’re planning to have a tasting room, retail space, a community center, and tours of the brewing process. Draft beers will be sold in growlers. Retail items include Coney beer-themed tap handles, coolers, beach towels, T-shirts and trucker hats currently sold on the company’s online store. Asked if the brewery would be applying for a permit to operate a brew pub or restaurant at the location, Barnes said they were not.

The new brewery will mark a return to Coney for the namesake brand, which under Shmaltz Brewing ownership operated the “World’s Smallest Brewery” in a tiny storefront next to the freak show. That brewery was part of Coney Island USA’s small business incubator program from 2011 until it got washed away by Sandy.

New graphics on display

New graphics on display at Brass Monkey Launch Party, November 18, 2013. Photo © Tricia Vita

Related posts on ATZ…

November 19, 2014: Coney Island Brewing Co. Applies for License for Surf Ave Brewery

November 25, 2013: Coney Island Freak Show-Inspired Beer Takes A New Ride

January 31, 2012: Remnant of Under Boardwalk Bar Found in Coney Island

October 11, 2011: Photo of the Day: Butterflies & Beer Island by Bruce Handy

Read Full Post »

Subway Cafe

Subway Cafe, Surf Avenue. January 25, 2015. Photo © Tricia Vita

More than two years after ATZ posted “Will Coney Island’s Surf Ave Become a Mecca for Franchises?” (December 19, 2012), the trend continues. Across the street from Luna Park, an IHOP is finalizing a deal to open a pancake restaurant while a Subway Cafe has their sign up and is set to open a year-and-a-half after signing a lease. New FEMA regulations after Sandy are partly to blame for construction delays at Subway Cafe, a restaurant concept featuring “Tuscany-style decor” aiming for a “coffeehouse ambiance” and a layout a little larger than an average Subway.

Sushi Lounge

Sushi Lounge, Surf Avenue at W 12th Street. January 25, 2015. Photo © Tricia Vita

Amid the influx of already opened national chains and franchises such as It’Sugar, Applebee’s, Rita’s Italian Ice, and Dunkin’ Donuts on Surf Avenue, there have also been a few new Mom & Pops like Lunatics Ice Cream and Luna Park Cafe (no connection to the park). An outpost of Piece of Velvet, a cake and cupcake shop with locations in Fort Greene and Harlem, is opening across the street from old-time Mom & Pops Williams Candy and Pete’s Clam Stop

Sushi is coming to the corner of Surf Ave. and West 12th Street, across the street from Coney Island USA. Shalyapin Wonderwheel Karaoke (no connection to Wonder Wheel Park) morphed into Surf 12 Club and Lounge, which features live music, but their newest sign says “SUSHI LOUNGE.” A spokesman told ATZ they wanted to do something different. A new display case stood ready to serve desserts. Quartet of Catastrophe will play on Friday at 9:30pm.

Applebee's

Signs in Applebee’s windows on Surf Avenue. January 25, 2015. Photo © Tricia Vita

Applebee’s, which opened in June 2013, has proven popular with locals and extended its hours. Multiple signs on the street and one in the sky announce they now serve breakfast daily from 8am till 12 noon. A sideshow banner for Gary Dreifus’ “Magic at Coney!!!” graces the window. After completing its run at Coney Island USA, the magical variety show has moved across the street to Applebee’s second floor for Sunday performances in the winter.

Unlike Manhattan, where Mom and Pops are being forced out by landlords who triple the rent and then turn around and lease to chains or upscale businesses, the new franchises on Coney Island’s Surf Avenue are replacing illegal furniture stores which have existed for years in defiance of the zoning. Until the early 1980’s the north side of Surf was home to individually-owned penny arcades and a variety of rides including bumper cars, carousels and even a Jumbo Jet-style coaster. By the time the last ride– Coney Island’s B & B Carousell — closed in 2005, the north side was known as the wrong side of Surf Avenue to locate a business because of the lack of foot traffic. Not any more.

Checkers Coney Island

Checkers in Stillwell Terminal, Surf Avenue. January 25, 2015. Photo © Tricia Vita

Two other previously announced and long under construction franchises that are expected to open in 2015 are Checkers in Stillwell Terminal, which has finally put its sign up, and its next door neighbor, Johnny Rockets. Like Subway Cafe, these businesses have been delayed by new and ever-changing post-Sandy building regulations. Johnny Rockets is waiting for approval of a storm surge resistant front to resume construction.

Just off Surf, on Stillwell Avenue, Thor Equities’ retail building is the site of New York City’s first Wahlburgers –Donnie, Mark and Paul Wahlberg’s burger franchise– opening in May and written into the script of the Wahlberg’s reality show on A & E.

UPDATE January 30, 2015:

The Coney Island Brewing Company, whose craft beers celebrate the iconography of Coney Island, may soon have a place to call its own on Surf Avenue. Boston Beer Corporation, which applied in September for a license to open a brewery under the trade name Coney Island Brewing Company at 1904 Surf Avenue, received a conditional letter of approval from the NY State Liquor Authority last week.

Johnny Rockets Coney Island

Johnny Rockets, Surf Avenue, January 25, 2015. Photo © Tricia Vita

Related posts on ATZ…

May 26, 2014: Photo Album: Opening Day for 5 New Businesses & Exhibits in Coney Island

January 3, 2014: New Year, New Franchise: Rita’s Italian Ice Coming to Coney Island

September 11, 2013: Subway Cafe to Replace Furniture Store on Coney Island’s Surf Ave

February 13, 2013: Thor’s Coney Island: Candy Retailer It’Sugar to Open Surf Ave Store

Read Full Post »

Wahlburg family

The Wahlburg family at last month’s grand opening of Wahlburgers Toronto

Wahlburgers, a burger restaurant founded in Boston by the three Wahlberg brothers–actors Mark and Donnie, and chef Paul Wahlberg– is the latest national chain set to come to Coney Island. The company announced today that New York-based franchisee Big Apple Burgers is preparing to launch six restaurants in Manhattan and one in Coney Island.

“We’re confident that our knowledge and expertise will be a great asset to the Wahlburgers brand,” said John Cestare of Big Apple Burgers. “It’s exciting to partner with the Wahlberg family and brand knowing we share the same values and family-work culture.” Ten days ago, John Castare registered the name “Coney Burgers LLC” after registering “Big Apple Burgers LLC” earlier in November. Since the deal has just been signed, no info on the franchise’s location has been released yet. (Update: here it is!)

The Wahlberg family’s adventures in the burger business is the subject of an A & E TV reality series that debuted in January. The Coney Island location, which is expected to open in May, will be scripted into the show. After opening the first restaurant in 2011, they made deals to open locations in Las Vegas, Philadelphia and Toronto. Today’s announcement also included 20 franchise locations in Florida.

Wahlburgers

Wahlburgers menu via Wahlburgersrestaurant.com

Will the Wahlbergs’ celebrity help them win the hamburger market share in Coney? Boardwalk mainstays Nathan’s, Tom’s, Ruby’s, and Paul’s Daughter have burgers on their menus as does Peggy O’Neill’s on Surf Avenue. White Castle Express serves their sliders at two seasonal locations in Luna Park. Burger franchises currently under construction in Coney include a Checkers in Stillwell Terminal and a Johnny Rockets next door. The Johnny Rockets as well as a Subway Cafe on the north side of Surf have faced construction delays due to post-Sandy FEMA regulations requiring them to raise the floor by 2-1/2 feet. “Some of the regulations they’re making up as they go along,” broker Joe Vitacco told ATZ.

No word on the status of the Burger-Fi which Thor Equities’ Glenn Vogel said last spring was coming to their retail building on Stillwell. Has Wahlburgers grabbed that spot, which includes a roof deck? It’s a pretty good bet. Rumor has it that’s the location and it’s set to be revealed during the reality show. Check back for updates.

UPDATE April 27, 2015:

Last week, Wahlburgers released details of the 6,800 square foot franchise restaurant currently under construction in Coney Island and slated to open this summer. Read more at Coney Island 2015: Update on Wahlburgers, Temporary Fair at Thor’s Vacant Lots

UPDATE January 31, 2015:

The location of the Wahlburgers celebrity burger franchise opening in Coney Island was publicly revealed for the first time today when signage went up on Thor Equities’ retail building on Stillwell Avenue.

Related posts on ATZ…

November 18, 2014: Coney Island Brewing Co. Applies for License for Surf Ave Brewery

May 25, 2014: Photo Album: Opening Day for 5 New Businesses & Exhibits in Coney Island

September 11, 2013: Subway Cafe to Replace Furniture Store on Coney Island’s Surf Ave

December 19, 2012: Will Coney Island’s Surf Ave Become a Mecca for Franchises?

Read Full Post »

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