Posts Tagged ‘small business’

Beer Island

The End of Beer Island. November 6, 2011. Photo © Bruce Handy’s Coney Island Photo Diary via flickr

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.”

Beer Island

The End of Beer Island. November 6, 2011. Photo © Bruce Handy’s Coney Island Photo Diary via flickr

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.


The Ghost of the Famed Hey Joey!. November 6, 2011. Photo © Bruce Handy’s Coney Island Photo Diary via flickr


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

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Connoisseurs of hypocrisy should enjoy this one: On Tuesday, the New York City Economic Development Corporation (NYCEDC) tweeted “Support your small local business,” yet refuses to support or say a word to the press about the nine small local businesses booted off City-owned property in Coney Island. The NYCEDC leased the Boardwalk property to Central Amusement International, the New Jersey-based operator of Coney Island’s new Luna Park.

It appears that City officials are trying to distance themselves from responsibility for the eviction of Mom and Pops by referring all requests for comment to CAI. In an op-ed in this week’s Courier News, Valerio Ferrari, president of Central Amusement International promised a “multi-million dollar program that will bring back the world-class mix of entertainment, dining and nightlife that was once a hallmark of the famed Boardwalk.” Last week, Ferrari told us that Luna Park is investing $1.4 million in a new restaurant at the corner of Surf and 10th Street, formerly occupied by Gregory & Paul’s. A Boardwalk restaurant/bar hoping to get a lease renewal would have had to make a million dollar investment as well, Ferrari said.

Also on Tuesday, Paul’s Daughter, the Boardwalk restaurant formerly known as Gregory & Paul’s, posted an invite to a party on Saturday afternoon at 12:30. “It’s on the house!” Come out and enjoy the best french fries in all of Coney Island (yes, better than Nathan’s!) and photograph their iconic signage, perhaps for the very last time (we hope not). Watch for our photo album and reminiscences of the 40-year-old Boardwalk establishment coming tomorrow! Paul’s is one of the nine businesses being forced out by the redevelopment.

Paul's Daughter, formerly Gregory & Paul's, on the Coney Island Boardwalk. June 27, 2009. Photo © Tricia Vita/me-myself-i via flickr

Paul's Daughter, formerly Gregory & Paul's, on the Coney Island Boardwalk. June 27, 2009. Photo © Tricia Vita/me-myself-i via flickr

ATZ learned that the businesses, which had been given only two weeks to vacate the premises, were granted a four-day reprieve, presumably to give them a little more time to pack up decades worth of memorabilia and get out. Or perhaps the extension has something to do with legal action taken by eight of the business owners reported in today’s New York Post. Yesterday the businesses received letters extending the original November 15th deadline to vacate till November 19th.

Meanwhile, we’re still waiting for the NYCEDC or its president Seth Pinsky to reply to our tweets: Waiting for @sethpinsky @NYCEDC to “figure out where it makes sense for the various tenants to remain as we build out the amusement park” and Let’s see if @NYCEDC will at least relocate the mom & pop businesses booted off City-owned land in Coney.

This Friday, November 12, will be the one-year anniversary of the city’s press conference on the land buy where Shoot the Freak’s Anthony Berlingieri posed the question directly to Mayor Bloomberg: “Is there a place for us?” NYCEDC President Seth Pinsky gave a diplomatic reply: “Our intention is for the foreseeable future to keep all the tenants in place, certainly through next summer [2010]. And we’re going to be looking to work with each of you to figure out where it makes sense for the various tenants to remain as we build out the amusement park.”

Hey Seth, come to the party at Paul’s Daughter on Saturday, November 13, at 12:30 pm, and support local small business in Coney Island!


Related posts on ATZ…

July 17, 2012: 50 Years on Coney Island Boardwalk for Paul & His Daughter

November 13, 2011: The End of Paul’s Daughter As We Know It–Will They Return?

October 13, 2011: October 13, 2011: Photo of the Day: Coney Island Americana Looking for New Beach

November 1, 2010: Out With the Old in Coney Island: Only 2 of 11 Boardwalk Businesses Invited Back

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“Predatory developer Thor Equities is evicting small businesses while preparing to demolish the historic Henderson Building…” In this video, you’ll meet two business owners who after 3 decades of operating year-round businesses in the Henderson Building have lost their leases and have to move out.

On Saturday we took a few lousy pix of Popeye’s knowing it would be our last chance. After 27 years in Coney Island, Popeye’s Chicken & Biscuits was expected to serve its last supper to customers on Sunday. Today we’re hearing Popeye’s may have gotten a few days reprieve, if you want to head over for a last snack. The Henderson Building at the corner of Surf and Stillwell is one of four lots in Coney Island rezoned last summer for 30-story high rise hotels, which set the stage for the current evictions and demolitions.

Thor-Owned Henderson Building sits on a Parcel Rezoned for a High-Rise Hotel. Photo © Tricia Vita//me-myself-i via flickr

Thor-Owned Henderson Building sits on a Parcel Rezoned for a High-Rise Hotel. Photo © Tricia Vita//me-myself-i via flickr

The historic building once known as the Henderson Music Hall is slated to be demolished next month.  In the video, the business owners comments are punctuated by the drill of machinery.  You’ll see workers carrying out asbestos abatement/demolition on the building’s roof without any protection for the people below.  (But that’s another story,  which ATZ has been reporting.)

Maritza, who has operated the souvenir stand on the Stillwell Ave side of the Henderson building for 30 years,  began packing up and moving out on August 11.  In the video, she says she got one week’s notice. “When [Thor Equities] makes the new building he promised to give me a 10 year lease, but I don’t know. They’re supposed to talk to me about it, but I’m still here waiting,” Maritza says in the video. After Thor announced demolition plans in April, a rendering was released of a cheesy looking temporary one-story building occupied by hamburger and taco food joints. At the time we thought it was a ploy to get demo permits from the City and put an end to preservationists’ efforts to get approval for an historic district in Coney Island.

Will Popeye’s and Maritza find a spot in Joe Sitt’s future Mall of Coney Island? That depends on whether you think such a thing will ever be built. From where we stand, Joe Sitt is just creating another empty lot in Coney Island to add to his collection of empty lots. If you’re skeptical, we suggest you take a look at what the now decimated Stillwell Avenue looked like before Joe Sitt.

Evicted by Thor Equities, Popeye's Chicken in Coney Island Closes after 27 Years. Photo © Tricia Vita/me-myself-i via flickr

UPDATE April 10, 2012:

Popeyes Chicken reopened today at 1220 Surf Avenue, a new doors down from their original location, in a building owned by another landlord. The popular fast-food restaurant’s new home is in the Popper Building, which has a distinctive old copper sign that says “Herman Popper & Bro.” and a colorful history.
“Relocated Popeyes Set to Open Today in Coney Island,” ATZ, April 10, 2010

UPDATE August 24, 2010:

Popeye’s last chicken dinner will be served tonight! After 27 years at this location, the restaurant will close at midnight. Thirty people, including 20 year-round employees, are now out of work. The owner has until the end of the month to move out his equipment. He hopes to stay in Coney Island and is looking at two locations- one on the south side of Surf Avenue and another on the north side. We wish him luck and hope to see Popeye’s back soon!

Save Coney Island is giving free walking tours every Sunday through the end of September. The tours highlight the four soon-to-be demolished buildings owned by Thor Equities along Surf Avenue as well as some of Coney’s existing landmarks. This Sunday’s guest tour guide will be historian Charles Denson, author of Coney Island: Lost and Found.


Related posts on ATZ…

August 19, 2010: Thor’s Coney Island: Crack of Dawn Demo Work Attracts Scrutiny

April 29, 2010: Photo of the Day: Interior of Coney Island’s Doomed Henderson Music Hall

April 21, 2010: Thor’s Coney Island: Tattered Tents, Deathwatch for Historic Buildings

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

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