Cha Cha’s amusement park opens — with beer!

He’s baaaack!: John “Cha-Cha” Ciarcia may not be smiling, but he claims that his Steeplechase-Fun Park is a whole lot of fun — and it has its own bar.
Photo by Stefano Giovannini

It’s open!

Coney Island bar owner John “Cha Cha” Ciarcia opened his Steeplechase-Fun Park just before July 4 — nearly a month after its scheduled Memorial Day opening — and beachgoers have been bellying up to the Stillwell Avenue theme park for an evening of alcohol and amusements.

Patrons can get bar drinks at the 12-ride theme park, a perk that Luna Park and the Scream Zone doesn’t have, claims owner Joe “Cha Cha” Ciarcia.

But that’s not all:the Steeplechase-Fun Park is a bit cheaper than both city-approved attractions, said Karen King-Ciarcia, Cha Cha’s wife.

Rides at Steeplechase-Fun Park cost $5 a pop, but visitors can buy an unlimited-access wristband for $15 — keeping it on par with Luna Park, where rides range from $3 to $6. A four-hour unlimited ride wristband at Luna Park, however, costs $26. The Steeplechase-Fun Park is significantly cheaper than the Scream Zone, where rides range from $7 to $25.

King-Ciarcia said the Steeplechase-Fun Park was designed to keep “the People” in “The People’s Playground.”

“We wanted to create a place that was affordable,” King-Ciarcia said. “People are starting to know about it and they’re coming.”

Ciarcia never obtained the necessary permits to open this spring, so city Department of Buildings inspectors shuttered the amusement park before anyone could step inside.

That’s when Ciarcia turned to Borough President Markowitz, who’s team guided the bar owner through the permitting process.

The Steeplechase-Fun Park officially opened on June 23, coinciding with the Mermaid Parade.

“We would not be open if it were not for Marty showing us the way,” said King-Ciarcia, blaming the opening delay on a third party her husband had hired to get the proper permits, but screwed up the paperwork.

Markowitz, who was at the park’s grand opening, said he was happy to help.

“Like a true Brooklynite, Cha Cha never stopped believing in Coney Island,” Markowitz said in a statement. “Even after Club Atlantis was unceremoniously forced to close, Cha Cha refused to thrown in the towel — he stayed and invested in Coney Island’s future.”

Markowitz said Ciarcia’s Steeplechase-Fun Park — with its rides, bar, and concession stands — will keep the spirit of the old Coney Island alive.

Cha Cha’s Bar, Ciarcia’s beloved watering hole known for its live music and gritty feel, was one of eight Boardwalk businesses that fought to stay open after Central Amusements, the company the city hired to remake Coney Island, petitioned to have them booted from the iconic walkway. Ruby’s Bar and Paul’s Daughter were allowed to return, but Cha-Cha’s and four other shops were evicted.

But Ciarcia thumbed his nose at the amusement giant by opening a new restaurant on Surf Avenue this spring and announcing plans to launch his own amusement park, where prices will be on par with Luna Park, but cheaper than Scream Zone.

“This is my comeback,” Ciarcia boasted at the time. “They threw me off the Boardwalk but they can’t kick me out of Coney Island.”

Reach reporter Will Bredderman at (718) 260–4507 or e-mail him at wbredderman@cnglocal.com. Follow him on Twitter at twitter.com/WillBredderman

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