Old-school Boardwalk businesses that are facing eviction can stay open for eight more years — if they agree to get rid of their honky-tonk charm and turn themselves into upscale eateries — under a deal being offered by their landlord.
Central Amusement, the company that controls the leases along the city-owned beachfront, is negotiating new deals that require the owners of old-time businesses — including Ruby’s and Paul’s Daughter — to spend more than $100,000 each to clean up their acts if the Depression-era dives are to remain on the Boardwalk through 2019.
And the old-school owners may not be willing to bite.
“Ruby’s is in negotiations to come back, but right now it’s a coin toss,” said a source close to the negotiations, who asked remain anonymous.
The bars are being asked to spend several hundred thousand dollars on renovations, including hardwood floors and a fleet of flat-screen TVs — a move that would rip the rag-tag carney atmosphere out of places like the 77-year-old Ruby’s, which is beloved by the Coney faithful for its aging decor and honky-tonk feel.
Such a transformation would run the risk of alienating regulars who go there for cheap drinks, salty conversation and spectacular views of the Atlantic Ocean. Still, the source said Ruby’s may be willing to pay for the face-lift even though it would drastically change the style of the bar.
“The place would look more like the 2000’s, not the 1800’s,” the source said.
Central Amusement was planning to replace the two bars and five other Boardwalk shops — including Cha Cha’s and Beer Island — with a upscale eateries, but dropped plans after a Miami-based restaurant group that planned to put in fancier dining spots in the storefronts backed out earlier this month over concerns that it would not generate enough money, sources said.
That group opened Coney Cones on the Boardwalk in July to test the financial waters of the Boardwalk, but was disappointed in sales at the ice cream parlor this summer, according to several people familiar with the situation.
The news that the old bars could be spared was first reported in our sister publication, the New York Post.
If all the sides do broker deals, it would be the second time in 12 months Central Amusement’s plans to evict the so-called “Boardwalk Eight” has failed. Last year, seven of the longtime businesses forced Central Amusment’s hand when they sued the company to keep their spaces. Two establishments brokered a deal to stay open this Monday.
The eighth business, a popular carnival game called “Shoot the Freak,” was bulldozed before the agreement was reached in March.
Coney stakeholders were stunned by Central Amusement’s decision to give some of the shops a new lease on life.
“I’m taken totally by surprise,” said Dick Zigun, Coney’s chief booster and the man behind Sideshows by the Seashore. “I didn’t think they would change their plans.”
A spokesman for Central Amusement did not return calls seeing comment.
If negotiations fall through, Boardwalk loyalists can still expect a raucous send-off at Ruby’s, which hosted a similar “farewell” party last year, when the bar thought it was about to close, on Oct. 29.
Reach reporter Daniel Bush at email@example.com or by calling (718) 260-8310.