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Posts Tagged ‘Steve’s Grill House’

Steve Bitetzakis

Steve Bitetzakis in front of his restaurant on the Coney Island Boardwalk. November 6, 2010. Photo © Jim Kiernan via jamienyc/flickr

Coney Island lost one of its own last night. Steve Bitetzakis, 54, the owner of Steve’s Grill House located on the Coney Island Boardwalk from 1993 until 2011, passed away after a long battle with cancer.

Decorative flags, flowerpots, hand-painted signage and ample seating gave Steve’s Grill House a homey ambiance. Friends remembered him as a nice guy who knew all of his customers and would help out people who were hungry. “He’d say, you can pay me when you have the money, but I’m sure they never did,” said retired arcade operator Stanley Fox. “But he was that kind of guy.”

Door of the Grill House. Photo © Tricia Vita/me-myself-i

Handpainted Sign on Door of the Grill House. August 1, 2009. Photo © Tricia Vita/me-myself-i

The restaurateur was the last hold out of the “Coney Island 8” evicted from the Boardwalk by Zamperla. In February 2012, he called off plans to have his modular building moved down Stillwell and instead took a buyout. Steve invested in a state-of-the-art concession trailer which opened for Easter of last year on Thor Equities’ Stillwell Avenue lot leased to the BK Festival.

Unfortunately, he lost his location to Cha Cha’s Club Atlantis and had to move to another lot leased by the festival where he was not able to open for business. The BK Festival’s plan for satellite locations on Surf Avenue called for opening the fencing during business hours but it turned out that city regulations did not permit it. Steve’s shuttered trailer remained parked on the Surf Avenue lot until a few weeks ago when all of the vehicles on the lot were towed away to a City pound.

Steve's Grill House

Steve's New Grill House concession trailer at the BK Festival on Stillwell Avenue. April 8, 2012. Photo © Tricia Vita/me-myself-i via flickr

It was sad to see Steve’s Grill House leave Coney Island since we knew he was ill and his restaurant was not likely to be coming back. There was no spot for him to lease in the new Coney Island, even though there are still empty lots.

Steve’s family has a long history of operating food concessions in Coney Island. His father Gregory Bitetzakis was the co-owner of Gregory & Paul’s, which opened more than 50 years ago. After Gregory retired in 2009, the restaurant changed its name to Paul’s Daughter. Steve first got sand in his shoes working for his father in the G & P’s on West 10th Street opposite the Cyclone. “He wanted to be in Coney Island more than anything,” said an old friend.

A wake will be held at the Dahill Funeral Home, 2525 65th Street, Brooklyn, on Tuesday, May 21st from 5 until 9 pm.

Grill House coney Island Boardwalk

Steve’s Grill House, Coney Island Boardwalk. Last day of season, Oct 31, 2010. Photo © Tricia Vita/me-myself-i via flickr

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Club Atlantis

Cha Cha’s new outdoor Club Atlantis Bar, Coney Island. June 23, 2012. Photo © Tricia Vita/me-myself-i via flickr

Over the first weekend of summer, a few more Coney Island businesses opened their doors. As we reported on Saturday, Grimaldi’s new pizzeria on the north side of Surf Avenue served its first pies in Coney Island on Mermaid Day.  Across the street, Luna Park’s new state-of-the-art arcade, which takes only Luna cards–no spare change, please!– opened in the former Astroland Arcade. The surprise of surprises was to see Cha Cha’s Steeplechase Park open for business after a four week delay. The Coney Island Rumor Mill had been speculating that the park, which was scheduled to open on Memorial Day Weekend, would never open. The Rumor Mill was wrong.

MegaWhirl

MegaWhirl Cars in Coney Island. May 6, 2012. Photo © Tricia Vita via flickr

Jonathan Gordon, the designer of the MegaWhirl, a prototype ride that is the centerpiece of Cha Cha’s Steeplechase Park, told ATZ that the delay in opening the park had nothing whatsoever to do with the rides. It was a matter of filing of paperwork with City agencies and bureaucratic red tape that kept the park from opening until now.

Friday’s ride inspection by the City’s ride inspector was cut short by a torrential rainstorm, but they received a checklist of what needed to be done, Gordon said. The inspection resumed on Saturday afternoon after the Mermaid Parade. The MegaWhirl and the majority of the other rides, including a Scrambler, Himalaya and Bumper Cars, passed inspection on Saturday and opened on Sunday. Only the Cobra and one of the kiddie rides need additional work before they’re ready to open.

Cobra Ride

Cobra Ride, Cha Cha’s Steeplechase Park. June 23, 2012. Photo © Tricia Vita/me-myself-i via flickr

The cost of a single ride on the MegaWhirl is $5, according to Gordon. In early May, the ride designer and the manufacturer Larson International brought the MegaWhirl from the factory floor in Texas to make its world debut in Coney Island. As previously reported, the ride combines the thrill of the Tilt-A-Whirl and the Whip. The new ride’s arrival is another promising sign of Coney Island’s revival. Back in the day, the first models of new park or carnival rides would make their debut here.

The opening of Cha Cha’s Steeplechase Park marks the return of rides to Thor Equities’ Stillwell Avenue lots for the first time since July 2008. Amusements existed here for more than 100 years until Joe Sitt bought the property and booted longtime ride and game operators in 2006. The Thor-owned Stillwell sites were used for a carnival in 2008, a flea market in 2009 and 2011, and remained vacant in 2010.

Mozzarepa and other street fair food at Cha Cha’s Steeplechase Park, June 23, 2012. Photo © Tricia Vita/me-myself-i via flickr

On Saturday, the flea vendors of the BK Festival on the west side of Thor Equities’ Stillwell lot were once again doing business. On the east side of Stillwell, Cha Cha’s new outdoor Club Atlantis Bar was serving customers. Adjacent to Wonder Wheel Way and Scream Zone, the bar has a lot of space for table seating. It combines elements of Cha Cha’s former Club Atlantis on the Boardwalk with Beer Island minus the sand — for now.

Also open were a variety of food stands of the type one finds at street fairs. The food looked appetizing and less pricey than similar fare at Nathan’s. After seeing a friend enjoying a chicken shish-kebob, we tried one for $5 and would eat there again. Oddly enough, shish-kebob has been eliminated from the menus of the Boardwalk eateries Paul’s Daughter and Ruby’s Bar. The only other places you can get it in Coney Island are Gyro Corner, which has a location on the Bowery, and Pete’s Clam Stop on Surf.

Basketball Game

Ray’s Basketball Game, Coney Island. May 28, 2012. Photo © Tricia Vita/me-myself-i via flickr

Sadly, two Coney Island veterans previously displaced by redevelopment will not be able to open their businesses anytime soon. Ray’s Basketball, which is on the Steeplechase lot facing the Bowery, and Steve’s Grill House, currently on Thor’s 12th Street lot, got new locations that have literally left them up against a fence. The original plans for the new Steeplechase park and two satellite locations on Surf Avenue called for opening the fencing during business hours. It turns out that city regulations will not permit it.

Steve Bitetzakis’ Grill House has lost its location twice in the past year. On the Coney Island Boardwalk since 1993, Steve’s was one of the “Coney Island 8″ evicted by Zamperla. In February he sold his modular building to Zamperla, which is remodeling it and the former Beer Island to create the Place To Beach Bar. After purchasing a concession trailer, Steve’s opened for Easter on Thor Equities’ Stillwell East lot leased to the BK Festival. He lost his spot and was relocated to Surf when the festival closed to make way for the new Steeplechase Park.

Ray’s Basketball, which was moved from the Coney Island Arcade lot, is not on wheels and would require a crane to pick it up and turn it around 180 degrees. Anybody want to help these guys out?

Steve's Grill House

Up Against the Fence: Steve’s Grill House. June 22, 2012. Photo © Tricia Vita/me-myself-i via flickr

UPDATE June 30, 2012

Ray's Basketball Coney IslandYay for Ray! His basketball game is no longer “fenced off” and will be able to do biz on 4th of July. Ray finally managed to open on Friday, June 29, for the first time this season after the chain link fence next to his awning was opened. Note the portable fencing placed in front of the basketball game, probably as per the letter of the law. Steve’s Grill House and the West 12th Street lot remain closed.

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

May 1, 2012: MegaWhirl Ride Prototype to Debut in Coney Island

April 19, 2012: Rides Return to Thor’s Stillwell Lots for 1st Time Since 2008

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Coney Island Grill House

Steve’s Grill House on Shore Hotel Lot, Surf Avenue. May 9, 2012. Photo © Eric Kowalsky. All Rights Reserved

Thor Equities’ Shore Hotel lot and adjoining Henderson Walk in Coney Island will be activated this summer with rides, concessions and other attractions, according to BK Festival promoter Will McCarthy. The first tenant pulled onto the empty lot on Monday. Steve Bitetzakis’ Grill House trailer was relocated from the BK Festival lot on Stillwell Avenue. The Grill House is now parked on the Surf Avenue side of the Shore Hotel lot at 1228 Surf, which goes through to Coney Island’s Bowery. The rides and other amusements are expected to open on Memorial Day Weekend.

As previously reported, Thor Equities’ Stillwell Avenue lots were leased to the BK Festival promoters for last year’s flea market and this year’s new Steeplechase Park. Thor’s Surf Avenue lots, including the former Shore Hotel site and the Bank of Coney Island lot at Surf and 12th, will also be part of the Coney Island amusement park slated to open Memorial Day Weekend.

Shore Hotel Lot and Henderson Walk

Paving Paradise By the Sea: Shore Hotel Lot and Henderson Walk , Coney Island. March 23, 2012. Photo © Tricia Vita via flickr

The Shore Hotel property has been vacant since Thor Equities demolished the circa 1903 hotel in December of 2010. The lot and the Walk were paved in March as seen in the above photo. Just to be clear–we’re talking about the Shore Hotel –here’s our flickr set “Coney Island’s Shore Hotel (Demolished)”— and not the landmarked Shore Theater, which is frequently misidentified as a hotel!

Henderson Walk, one of Coney Island’s historic walks, has been fenced off since the demolition of the Henderson Music Hall. The century-old Henderson Building and Shore Hotel were on opposite sides of the Walk. Thor Equities’ new building on the Henderson site remains vacant and encased in plywood.

On Easter Sunday, Steve Bitetzakis debuted his new Grill House trailer at the BK Festival on Stillwell Avenue next to Scream Zone. Located on the Coney Island Boardwalk since 1993, Bitetzakis was one of the “Coney Island 8″ evicted by Zamperla. In February he called off plans to have his modular building moved down Stillwell and instead sold it to Zamperla and purchased a concession trailer.

Steve's Grill House

Steve’s New Grill House at the BK Festival on Stillwell Avenue. April 8, 2012. Photo © Tricia Vita/me-myself-i via flickr

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Related posts on ATZ…

April 19, 2012: Rides Return to Thor’s Stillwell Lots for 1st Time Since 2008

March 5, 2012: Exclusive: Goodbye Flea Market, Hello “Steeplechase Park”

April 22, 2011: Coney Island Has 64 Rides and 30 Weekends of Summer!

December 13, 2010: R.I.P Coney Island’s Shore Hotel, Henderson Next on Hit List

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