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Archive for the ‘Food & Drink’ Category

Freak Bar

Coney Island Lager- Old and New Labels– and Coney Island Albino Python at Coney Island USA’s Freak Bar. November 10, 2013. Photo © Tricia Vita

When Shmaltz’s line of award-winning Coney Island Craft Lagers were launched in 2008, a trio of Coney Island USA sideshow performers were immortalized on the labels and played a part in the marketing campaign. “It just made perfect sense to include the performers,” said the brewery’s owner Jeremy Cowan in an interview with the Daily News at the time. “A portion of every bottle and every pint will go toward updating their building and keeping the spirits of Coney Island alive.”

Last week, at a bar in Manhattan’s Meatpacking District, the re-branded line was launched with new graphics and a new slogan: “Take the next ride with the Coney Island Brewing Company.” Cowan sold Shmaltz’s Coney Island beers in August to Alchemy and Science, a subsidiary of Boston Beer Co., which produces Samuel Adams, in a deal said in the press to be worth $2.9 million.

A new brewery and tasting room is planned at a yet-to-be decided location in Brooklyn, to replace their “World’s Smallest Brewery,” which had free space in Coney Island USA’s building until it got washed away by Sandy. But the non-profit arts organization that produces the Mermaid Parade, the Coney Island Circus Sideshow and other popular events is not a partner on the next ride.

Coney Island Brewery

Coney Island Brewing Co Launch Party at the Brass Monkey, November 18, 2013. Photo via Coney Island Brewing Facebook

“That agreement expired 19 months ago,” said Cowan, when ATZ asked him what the brand’s involvement with Coney Island has been since it was sold and their plans for the future. According to the terms of the sale, Cowan is still brewing some of the beers at Shmaltz’s brewery in upstate New York and advising A&S on Coney Island matters for at least five years. “I’ll be the liaison with the Alliance for Coney Island and the neighborhood and I’m still president of the NYC Brewers Guild.”

Last year after Sandy, Cowan organized a fundraiser by the nonprofit Guild at Brooklyn Brewery in which several breweries participated, raising $10,000 divided equally among three organizations –Rockaway Surf Club, Red Hook Initiative, and Coney Recovers. The Coney Island Brewing Company is a member of the one-year-old Alliance for Coney Island, which functions as a sort of Chamber of Commerce for businesses in the neighborhood and launched Coney Recovers to raise funds for the community after Sandy.

Coney Island Beer Taps

New Coney Island Brewing Co. Taps Mimic the Parachute Jump. Launch Party at the Brass Monkey in the Meatpacking District. November 18, 2013. Photo via Coney Island Brewing Facebook

Asked how much the new Coney Island Brewing Company plans to contribute to Coney Island and with whom it will forge partnerships, Cowan said, “Well, I don’t think they even know that right now and it’s probably something they can’t give a dollar amount to.”

The new owners also haven’t decided yet what to do with all of the brands. “Nothing is absolutely final but it’s kind of a mad dash to make the transition so they have a new logo for the brewing company,” says Cowan. “Mermaid Pilsner is the flagship. We’re still making Coney Island lager with our proprietary Funny Face that Dave Wallin did for me, changing some of the graphics around it, but that will still be available for sale on draft in the city.”

The new graphics feature Coney’s landmark Wonder Wheel, Cyclone and Parachute Jump amid a towering glass of Coney Island beer. There’s also a gorgeous new mermaid in the surf and the beer’s trademark Funny Face looks a bit less freaky without his facial tattoos. And the newly designed taps for draft beer mimic Coney Island’s Parachute Jump.

New graphics on display

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

At the time of the sale, new owner Alan Newman of A & S told Brewhound, “The goal is to broaden out the brand so it represents more than just the freak show and isn’t so scary,” he said. “We want to celebrate the amusement park, the beach, the boardwalk, the hot dogs and all of the things that make Coney Island interesting.”

Newman grew up in Long Island, and as a kid came to Coney Island when he was a teenager. “They want to make it wonderful and exciting and continue on with the project that we started,” Cowan tells ATZ. Alan Newman is also the author of “High on Business: The Life, Times, and Lessons of a Serial Entrepreneur” and the grand wizard of a brewery-sponsored annual Mardi Gras parade in Burlington, Vermont, where he lives.

Among the new beers that will be introduced are “Seas the Day,” an Indian pale lager with a Zoltar-like fortuneteller gracing the label and “Tunnel of Love,” described as “Watermelon Wheat” and featuring a couple seated in a romantic swan carriage on its label.

Coney Island Brewing Co

Posters for Coney Island Beer on display at Brass Monkey Launch Party, November 18, 2013. Photo © Tricia Vita

According to the Boston Business Journal, Boston Beer projected that it spent $3-$5 million on Alchemy & Science in 2012, the division’s first year, and expects to spend another $2-$4 million this year. A&S has also acquired L.A.’s Angel City Brewery, launched the Traveler Beer Co., and is developing the Just Beer brand after buying that name from another brewery. Boston Beer executives warned investors that the Alchemy & Science budget could increase again, and it’s not clear when A&S’s revenue will surpass its expenses, the story noted.

Meanwhile, the Coney beers are still sold at Coney Island USA’s Freak Bar, as Dick Zigun recently noted on twitter, when a follower called for a boycott after realizing Coney Island Brewing is no longer donating money from sales. “Such discussion is premature,” replied the Coney Island USA founder and Unofficial Mayor of Coney Island. Dick Zigun tweeted: “I’ve suggested no such thing-still serving it!” In response to a request for a quote for this story about Coney Island USA’s relationship with Coney Island Lager, Zigun sent an email: “I am restricted from commenting at this time.” (Update: On April 11th, the eve of Coney Island’s Opening Weekend, Zigun posted in reply to a question about the on the Coney Island Message Board: “The Freak Bar is open and serving…we are not (currently) serving the ‘specialty brands’ while we quietly try and resolve a legal dispute.”)

Coney Island Beer Posters

Posters at Coney Island USA’s Freak Bar. November 10, 2013. Photo © Tricia Vita

The beer is also sold in Coney Island at Ruby’s Bar, Paul’s Daughter, Applebee’s, Nathan’s, Tom’s, Peggy O’Neills, and Deno’s Wonder Wheel Park, says Cowan. “You can buy it in most places but we’re still a little company trying to compete with Coors Light and Budweiser. Six of every ten beers is a Budweiser product and in Coney Island Corona and Coors Light are monster brands, so trying to compete in some of those accounts to drink our beer instead is a real challenge.”

To that end, Cowan has done tastings and co-marketing with some of the Coney Island establishments. Next fall, during the shoulder season, he hopes to kick off an Oktoberfest-type of event in conjunction with the Alliance.

As for the new brick-and-mortar Coney Island Brewing Company, where small batches would be brewed, it may not even be in Coney Island. Cowan says they haven’t finalized where it’s going to be. “We’re looking in all of Brooklyn. We’d love to locate it in Coney Island if possible, but as you know it’s a very tricky place to find real estate. There are about four or five people who own the real estate in Coney Island, so they set the rents. If we find a way to work with them that’s fantastic. And there’s issues for us. Specifically, the infrastructure in Coney Island still needs to continue to be upgraded for utilities and sewer and water, basic needs of a small business and certainly a small manufacturing business.”

Mermaid Pilsner

Mermaid Pilsner – the New and the Old. Coney Island Brewing Company. Photo via Coney Island Brewery Facebook

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October 20, 2013: Photo Album: Four Transformations, One Year After Sandy

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

May 11, 2010: 21st Century Bars: Coney Island’s Freak Bar Featured in New Book

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Tom's Coney Island

First Brunch at Tom’s Coney Island. September 23, 2012. Photo © Bruce Handy via Coney Island Photo Diary

“We are going to have a small gathering at the store this afternoon at 4pm to celebrate our 1 year anniversary,” says Jimmy Kokotas, owner of Tom’s Coney Island. One year ago today, September 23rd, the Boardwalk outpost of the popular Prospect Heights restaurant opened for business after many months of construction. Coney Island resident and ATZ contributing photographer Bruce Handy was one of their first customers and sent us the above photo of his first brunch.

Tom's Coney Island

Tom’s on the Coney Island Boardwalk. November 17, 2012. Photo © Tricia Vita via flickr

“I had two eggs over easy, home fries, whole wheat toast and coffee, all good,” said Bruce, whose photos of Tom’s first Sunday brunch he posted on his Coney Island Photo Diary. Are they serving pancakes yet? “Not sure, guy next to me had waffles,” he said. Since then, many eggs over easy, pancakes, sandwiches and wraps have been served at the Boardwalk establishment, which is open year round. “We will be staying open through the winter from 8-5, 7 days a week,” Jimmy Kokotas tells ATZ. “We are currently open 8-7 till daylight savings begins.”

Tom's Coney Island

Spinach and feta cheese omelet, Tom’s Coney Island. Photo © Tricia Vita

What a year it’s been! A little over a month after Tom’s opened, Superstorm Sandy struck and flooding from Coney Island Creek devastated the neighborhood. The Boardwalk businesses miraculously escaped damage and Tom’s was of the few restaurants open in Coney Island. In the days after the storm, Tom’s became a hub of activity, serving as a command center for volunteers and a host for breakfast meetings about storm relief for local business owners and organizations.

Happy 1st Anniversary and many thanks to Jimmy Kokotas and family and Tom’s staff!

Tom’s Coney Island, 1229 Boardwalk (at Stillwell Avenue), Brooklyn, NY 11224. Phone 718-942-4200

Tom's Coney Island

Post-Sandy meeting of neighborhood business owners at Tom’s Coney Island. November 5, 2012. Photo © Tricia Vita

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December 23, 2012: Photo of the Day: It’s a Wrap at Tom’s Coney Island

November 18, 2012: Photos of the Day: Mayor Bloomberg at Tom’s Coney Island

November 9, 2012: Update on Coney Island’s Amusement Area After Sandy

October 31, 2012: Photo Album: Hurricane Sandy’s Aftermath in Coney Island

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north side of Surf Avenue, Coney Island

1,700 sq foot Subway Cafe with Tuscany-style interior coming to this building at 1019 Surf Avenue. Photo © Tricia Vita

Last year ATZ asked “Will Coney Island’s Surf Ave Become a Mecca for Franchises?” (December 19, 2012). The latest in a slew of chains and franchisees betting on the new, year-round Coney Island is a Subway Cafe with a “Tuscany-style interior” featuring sofas and a fireplace. Broker Joe Vitacco signed a lease yesterday with the restaurant chain for the 1,700 square foot cafe at 1219 Surf Avenue across the street from Luna Park.

Just how pricey is Coney Island’s Surf Avenue? The building at 1019-1039 Surf was purchased for $3.1 million by 1019 Surf Ave Acquisition LLC in March for $3.1 million, according to Property Shark. Vitacco says the buyer was Russian multi-millionaire Yakov Yakubov, who also owns Loehmann’s Plaza in Brooklyn.

First introduced as a restaurant concept in 2008, the Subway Cafe’s decor and layout aim for a “coffeehouse ambiance” and is a little larger than an average Subway. The north side of Surf Avenue already has a Subway, located down the street in Stillwell Terminal, but it does not sell coffee. In addition to Subway sandwiches, the new cafe’s expanded menu includes baked goods, dessert items and coffee offerings. Part sandwich shop, part coffee bar, the Subway Cafe will be operated by franchisees with its lease held by the Subway Restaurant chain. They will take possession of a portion of the storefront occupied by the 11,000 square foot Lago Furniture. The furniture shop is on a month-to-month lease while tenants are sought for the rest of the space, Vitacco said.

Subway Cafe

Interior of one of the Subway Restaurant Chain’s Subway Cafes. The concept debuted in 2011

The furniture shops on the north side of Surf have long been in violation of the C-7 amusement zoning and are gradually being replaced by restaurants and bars. Dunkin’ Donuts (also in Stillwell Terminal), Coney Island Bar & Grill (formerly Bratva), Grimaldi’s Pizzeria, and Applebee’s will be joined next year on the north side of Surf by Johnny Rockets and Red Mango and Subway Cafe. As we noted last year, rides and amusement businesses aren’t about to make a comeback due to the skyrocketing rents since the rezoning. “I’m getting more inquiries than ever before,” said Vitacco, who would like to bring a seafood and steak restaurant to the neighborhood. “It means that people are thinking about it. But I call half the people I talk to tourists.”

Until the early 1980′s the north side of Surf Avenue was home to individually-owned penny arcades and a variety of rides including bumper cars, carousels and even a Jumbo Jet-style coaster. Philips Candy Store, now located in Staten Island, was the anchor of Stillwell Terminal from 1930 until 2000 when the terminal was rebuilt and they had to move out. 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.

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

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May 13, 2013: Grimaldi’s Rings in Coney Island Comeback with Dreamland Bell

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

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

October 3, 2012: Photo of the Day: The Weekday View from Ruby’s Bar

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