Brooklyn has won the battle for the Boardwalk.
Old-timey favorites like Ruby’s Bar and Paul’s Daughter will remain in Coney Island, Nathan’s will get a new, bigger home on the Boardwalk, and beloved Prospect Heights institution Tom’s Diner will open a cafe on the water thanks to new deals hammered out between the Brooklyn-based businesses and Central Amusements International, the People’s Playground’s Italian-owned overseer that had for years been trying to lure outsiders to the beach that made beaches famous.
And the company that was hand-picked by the city to bring Coney into the 21st century finally admitted that its game plan to bring interlopers to Coney, which it has controlled in 2009, was all wrong.
“[Now], we understand that Coney Island is not Miami Beach,” Valerio Ferrari, Central Amusements’ president who had been courting a Miami-based restaurant group to take over many of the storefronts on the Boardwalk, told the Daily News. “We want to keep what is already working there.”
But when the Miami group dipped its toe into Coney’s waters with an ice cream shop that didn’t perform as expected, it got cold feet.
That opened the door for two honky-tonk mainstays that at first faced closure, Ruby’s and Paul’s, to come back. The longtime Coney Island businesses signed deals on Friday that will keep them there for the next eight years, provided they pay for an expensive face-lift to make them more family friendly.
Joining them will be two other Brooklyn-born businesses, hot dog giant Nathan’s Famous (which already a famous location on Surf Avenue), and an outpost of Tom’s Diner, the greasy spoon some say was the inspiration for the Susanne Vega song of the same name (others think it was that Manhattan restaurant from “Seinfeld, ” but that’s a different story).
Tom’s owner said the 75-year-old diner’s Coney outpost will open next April after a $500,000 to $750,000 renovation that will turn the former Cha-Cha’s Bar into a sit-down restaurant for 80–100 people with an expanded menu featuring seafood dishes and a takeout counter. It will be open from 8 am to midnight.
“It’ll be Tom’s with a little bit of a seafood twist,” said Jimmy Kokotas. “This is a wonderful opportunity to take what we’ve got here and bring it to Coney Island.”
The news brings to an end the battle to save the so-called “Boardwalk Eight” — the Coney businesses that had been fighting to stay alive since Central Amusements was given control of their leases by the city. Last year, a court ordered Central Amusements to allow seven of the businesses to have another season in the sun. But five other Boardwalk businesses, including the popular Shoot the Freak booth and Beer Island, didn’t make the cut when the dust finally settled.
“Coney Island was the only place where we would’ve [opened another restaurant] in Brooklyn,” said Joey Randazzo, whose family owns the clam bar. “I’m disappointed we lost out.”