Surfboard parked on the Coney Island Boardwalk? Not exactly, it’s one of the signs that was about to go up on Zamperla’s new Place to BEach Bar (the capital “E” is a pun). The surfboard signage and other finishing touches, including tables and a deck, were being put in place this week at the new bar and Mexican grill on the Boardwalk at Stillwell Avenue.
Adjacent to Scream Zone, the location was formerly Steve’s Grill House and Beer Island, whose owners were evicted after the 2011 season. Valerio Ferrari, CEO of Zamperla, famously told the New York Times that he wanted something more “refined, cleaner. A little more year-round, if it’s possible, with sit-down restaurants and sports bars.” It’s happening. Last year, the facades of the remaining Boardwalk businesses got a sleek redo and Tom’s proved that a Boardwalk restaurant can stay open through the winter.
The new “Place to Be” was expected to open Easter weekend along with the Cyclone Cafe and food kiosks inside Luna Park. These venues will be operated by CAI Food LLC, the new food division of Zamperla’s Central Amusement International. An additional CAI restaurant will open in the B&B Carousel Pavilion at Steeplechase Plaza in May.
The opening of PTB Bar and the other CAI eateries marks the amusement park operator and ride manufacturer’s first foray into the food business in Coney Island. Until this season, food service giant Sodexo was Zamperla’s partner for “On Site Service Solutions.” The French multinational, the world’s 22nd largest employer, paid a rental fee to Zamperla. Sodexo kept such a low profile in Coney Island that the only sign we’ve ever seen with their name is the piece of paper at the bottom of this post. It was put up to direct trainees to their restaurant. Yet it was their staff who operated the Cyclone Cafe and the food kiosks since Luna Park opened in 2010.
At the time, Ferrari told ATZ that Sodexo was investing $1.4 million in a new sit-down restaurant, which was expected to be year-round and feature waiter service. As it turned out, the Cyclone Cafe was open the same hours as the park and its food offerings were what you’d expect from a corporation with a completely centralized purchasing system, which requires clients to choose from a list of “Right Products.” Sodexo is known for its cafeterias and individually branded restaurants at schools, hospitals, military bases and prisons, but nationally branded subtenants are also brought in under franchising or licensing agreements for the appearance of variety.
Sodexo’s departure had long been rumored and is something to cheer about. According to the partnership agreement, after 3 years either party was free to terminate the lease, with CAI having to reimburse the remaining value of Sodexo’s initial investment, with interest. A Sodexo manager who was working on site with cleanup after Sandy confirmed to ATZ that her company was leaving Coney Island.
Related Posts on ATZ…
March 17, 2013: Photo Album: Coney Island Getting Ready for Opening Day
March 11, 2013: Luna Park’s Pinwheels Go Up on Coney Island Boardwalk
August 29, 2012: Coney Island Has a New Lighthouse: It’s a Beach Bar