The Italian executive who runs Coney Island’s Luna Park — and controls the fate of honky-tonk Boardwalk businesses like Ruby’s Bar and Shoot the Freak — says he wants a fancy restaurant built there to class up the place.
“Why can’t you sit down with your newspaper and enjoy a coffee and the great view of the beach?” asked Valerio Ferrari, the CEO of Central Amusement International, the operator of Luna Park. “There needs to be a sit-down restaurant.”
Ferrari’s company’s deal with the city to run the former site of Astroland Park — along with acres of beachfront property ticketed for more amusements — includes the right to broker the leases for Boardwalk businesses between W. 10th Street and Stillwell Avenue. That means he gets to say what stays and what goes once all of the leases are up on Dec. 31.
With that in mind, each of the 11 businesses operating there was asked to submit business plans justifying their existence to Central Amusement.
Ferrari said that he’d received plans from all the business owners, and said they would know their fates by the end of October. But for now, Ferrari was not revealing which ones would remain.
“Some will stay, some will go,” said Ferrari. “We’re exploring our options.”
Dianna Carlin, the owner of Lola Star boutique on the Boardwalk, said she had turned in a business plan for the ages.
“I want a three-dimensional Lola Star figure roller-skating on top of a disco ball over the entrance,” said Carlin. “And three hot pink chandeliers, including one made of gummi bears!”
She added that a sit-down restaurant isn’t a bad idea.
“I constantly have customers come to ask where they can go to sit down … and eat something that isn’t greasy and fried,” Carlin said.
The owner of a classy — and famous — sit-down restaurant nearby thinks the idea for fine dining could work, but he had some reservations.
“It’s not a bad idea, but they got to straighten up over there,” said Nino Russo, an owner of Gargiulo’s on W. 15th Street between Mermaid and Surf avenues.
The problem, Russo said, is that Boardwalk sunbathers aren’t often interested in a classy sit-down meal.
“I don’t think the people going to the beach are the type of people looking to spend a lot of money,” he said.
Plus, a new restaurant would mean that at least one of the businesses — the beloved Cha Cha’s and Paul’s Daughter among them — has to go.
Anthony Berlingieri, the owner of Shoot the Freak and Beer Island, bristled at being held in limbo.
“Just tell us whether we’re staying, or leaving,” Berlingieri said when he first received the letter.
But Carlin said the businesses’ uncertain fates were nothing new, given that they’ve had three different landlords — the developer Joe Sitt, the city, and now, Central Amusement — in the last three years.
“We’ve become so accustomed to this uncertainty,” said Carlin. “I think [Central Amusement] is trying to figure it out the best that they can.”