Posts Tagged ‘Cha-Cha’s’

Cha Cha's of Coney Island

First Drink at Relocated Cha Cha's of Coney Island. April 7, 2012. Photo © Diana Shumate

Today, Cha Cha’s of Coney Island served its first drink in its new location on the north side of Surf Avenue across from Nathans Famous. Opening day is Easter Sunday at 12 noon, when longtime bartender Mila will host her first Bloody Mary Sunday of the season, toasted by friends. The address is 1315 Surf Avenue, the space formerly occupied by Surf N Turf Grill.

Brick-oven pizza at $2.00 per slice along with beer and drinks will be served, says Diana Shumate, who sent us these photos. The restaurant will be open weekends only for the next few weeks while renovations are underway. A more extensive menu is planned, Cha Cha says. Cha Cha’s Club Atlantis, a beach bar similar to the original and with the atmosphere of a reincarnated Beer Island, is expected to open at Stillwell Avenue’s BK Festival. Live music will be featured at both the Surf and Stillwell locations.

Last October was the last hurrah for John “Cha Cha” Ciarcia’s “Home of Wild Women and Wise Guys” on the Coney Island Boardwalk. One of the “Coney Island 8” evicted by Zamperla, Cha Cha’s former Boardwalk location was the site of the original Club Atlantis and is slated to become Tom’s Restaurant.

The good news is that in addition to family-owned Brooklyn establishments like Tom’s of Prospect Heights and Grimaldi’s Pizzeria opening in Coney Island, the majority of the original “Coney Island 8” eateries are coming back this season. Ruby’s Bar and Paul’s Daughter were offered 8-year leases by Zamperla and are currently undergoing renovations. Steve’s Grill House sold his building to Zamperla, bought a concession trailer and plans to relocate nearby. Gyro Corner Clam Bar has a second location at the corner of the Bowery and 12th Street.

Cha Cha's of Coney Island

Chalkboard sign for Cha Cha's of Coney Island. New Location is 1315 Surf Avenue, the former Surf N Turf Grill. April 7, 2012. 2012. Photo © Diana Shumate


Related posts on ATZ…

June 25, 2012: New Club Atlantis, MegaWhirl Ride Open in Coney Island

May 17, 2012: Coney Island’s Cha Cha Puts His Name on Steeplechase

January 16, 2012: Photo of the Day: Signs of Coney’s Club Atlantis Resurface

October 30, 2011: Nov 1: Auction Sale at Cha Cha’s, 4 Others on Coney Island Boardwalk

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Amusement Park Opening Soon

Steeplechase the Fun Place Amusement Park Opening Soon. Photo © Jim McDonnell. All rights Reserved

On Sunday, a sign appeared on the fence at the Thor Equities lot on Stillwell Avenue leased to the BK Festival announcing the opening of “Steeplechase Amusement Park.” We’ve known for several weeks that rides and amusements were planned for the former flea market this summer, but details were pending.

Will McCarthy, event director of the BK festival, tells ATZ that the flea market didn’t mesh with the Coney Island location and this season the BK Festival will bring in rides and amusements in addition to a smaller number of vendors. The flea market is expected to continue until the rides debut in May. Among the old school carnival flat rides confirmed for the event are a Himalaya, Ring of Fire, Trabant and Cakewalk. There will be also be a climbing wall, McCarthy said. Additional rides and amusements will be announced soon. The BK Festival’s partners went to the carnival convention in Gibsonton, Florida, last month to recruit ride operators for Coney Island.

Why did they choose the name Steeplechase Park? “We want to bring back a lot of things that used to be on the property,” says McCarthy. “It’s a tribute to Steeplechase Park.”


Steeplechase Park Sign Already Defaced. © Magical Theme Parks. All Rights Reserved

And why not? Coney Island’s three grand amusement parks of the early 20th century were Steeplechase, Dreamland and Luna Park, and the names of the last two are already taken. When Joe Sitt brought carnivals to his property in the summers leading up to the 2009 rezoning, he called it Dreamland Amusement Park. Zamperla named their park after Thompson and Dundy’s Luna Park. Although the new parks bear very little resemblance to the originals, the familiar names evoke memories and exert a powerful pull. We’re just happy the BK Festival, which has a three-year lease, will not be a flea market this summer. We wish them well. Evidently one person wasn’t thrilled with this iteration of the Funny Face. The sign, which has a couple of unfortunate misspellings, was almost immediately defaced.

The park will be the third Steeplechase. In 1967, Norman Kaufman leased part of the Tilyou’s Steeplechase site from Fred Trump and called his park Steeplechase Park, according to Charles Denson’s Coney Island: Lost and Found. The Jumbo Jet, Cortina, Bumper Cars, Go Karts, Batting Cages and a Miniature Golf Course were among Kaufman’s attractions over the years. Kaufman’s Batting Range and Go Kart City was on this piece of land until he was evicted by Thor Equities in 2007.

Club Atlantis

Cha Cha's Club Atlantis Opening Soon. Photo © Magical Theme Parks. All Rights Reserved

Another sign on the fence announced “Cha Cha’s Club Atlantis Opening Soon,” setting the stage for two clubs with the same name. Cha Cha, one of the Coney Island 8 evicted from the Boardwalk by Zamperla, is opening a restaurant on Surf Avenue as well as a reincarnation of his Cha Cha’s Club Atlantis. His former Boardwalk location, which will become Tom’s Restaurant, was the site of the original Club Atlantis. Across the way, the former Steve’s Grill House and Beer Island are set to become Zamperla’s Club Atlantis. Last month, Zamperla CEO Valerio Ferrari told the NY Post that a new beach bar called Club Atlantis would offer beer, wine and dancing.


Related posts on ATZ…

April 2, 2012: BK Festival’s 1st Amusement Rides Arrive in Coney Island

November 15, 2011: Coney Island 2012: What’s New on the Boardwalk

May 16, 2011: Thor’s Coney Island: Aqueduct Flea Vendors Make Dismal Debut

March 3, 2010: Thor’s Coney Island: What Stillwell Looked Like Before Joe Sitt

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club atlantis mermaid

Club Atlantis Mermaid Resurfaces. January 15, 2012. Photo © Bruce Handy. All Rights Reserved

Signage for Coney Island’s Club Atlantis, including this voluptuous mermaid, resurfaced after the sign for the evicted Cha Cha’s Bar & Cafe was removed from the building’s facade. The Boardwalk store was home to the Atlantis from the 1940s through the 1990s. In the last few years of its life, the letters from the famed sign that spelled Atlantis became corroded and were removed. This hand-painted signage replaced it. Does anyone recall who painted it and when?

The club had many different owners over the years, including Murray Weingar, a co-owner of Miami’s Copacabana, and bandleader Mousey Powell in the 1940s. In the ’70s, the Atlantis featured a singing cowboy and in the ’90s it became a Latin dance club, writes Charles Denson in Coney Island: Lost and Found. Cha Cha’s, the Home of Wild Women and Wise Guys, was also called Cha Cha’s Club Atlantis until it closed at the end of October.

One of the earliest mentions we could find for the Atlantis was during World War II. A notice in the July 11, 1942 edition of the Billboard said:

Atlantis bar, grill and dance hall on the Boardwalk, owned by Murray Weingar and Hymie Schuman, operates under blue dim-outs after sundown. Bar trade on main floor entertained by Ralph Lawrence, accordionist; Embassy Trio, singers and intrumentalists, with Ruth Blair doing the vocals. Patriotic display changed weekly in bar’s center. On top deck is a squared arena for the jitterbugs tripping to Sol Curry’s Ork and applauding Karen Kaye’s singing.

Tom’s Restaurant of Prospect Heights is renovating the Boardwalk space formerly occupied by both Cha Cha’s and Nathan’s, the site of the original Atlantis. The new restaurant will have a roof deck and is expected to open in April. Cha Cha’s, one of six Boardwalk businesses whose leases were not renewed by Central Amusement International, is seeking to relocate nearby.

Thanks to Coney Island photographer and Sunday archaeologist Bruce Handy for these photos!

Club Atlantis Signage Resurfaces. January 15, 2012. Photo © Bruce Handy. All Rights Reserved


Related posts on ATZ…

October 27, 2011: Ghost Lettering & End of Season Color in Old Coney Island

October 10, 2011: Photo of the Day: Coney Island’s Famed “Hey Joey!” Doomed

June 1, 2011: Photo Album: Street Art Down by the Coney Island Bowery

May 3, 2011: Photo of the Day: Street Art by RAE in Coney Island

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