Outlook sunny for Red Hook bar’s return

Bar owner’s narrow escape from flooded basement
Photo by Ken Yapelli

Sunny’s days are forecast for Red Hook.

A Kickstarter campaign to help restore the Hurricane Sandy-damaged watering hole Sunny’s Bar back has already surpassed its $20,000 goal after just over a week online.

The money will go toward a repair job estimated at between $60,000 and $80000, according to owner Tone Balzano, who narrowly escaped the pub when floodwaters filled the basement and rose about five feet high in the ground-floor taproom.

Before Sunny’s can reopen, Balzano must install new concrete in the basement, new electrical panels and wiring, a new boiler, a new floor in the bar, new compressors, and an ice machine. After all that’s done, the bar needs to replace thousands of dollars worth of destroyed liquor.

“I never imagined this would be such a long process,” said Balzano, whose bar picked $20,000 as a target because Kickstarter returns all donations if a project comes up short.

“We thought $20,000 was a good number to start with,” Balzano said.

Fans of the legendary Red Hook watering hole Sunny’s Bar are trying to help barkeep Sunny Balzano get back on his feet after Hurricane Sandy.
Photo by Stefano Giovannini

As of press time, 291 backers, at least partially compelled by a number of cool rewards, have contributed more than $24,000. Rewards include an original membership card to the Red Hook Yacht and Kayak Club — as Sunny’s was known when it was a private club — signed paintings of the bar by Anthony Fatato, and half-scale replicas of the Sunny’s sign, as designed by the lighting artisans at Lite Brite Neon.

Matt Dilling, one of the owners of Lite Brite, said he was proud to be a part of Sunny’s recovery.

“Sunny’s is a national treasure,” said Dilling.

Sunny Balzano — the pub’s namesake and a Red Hook legend — turned a bar that had belonged to his family since the 1890s into the neighborhood’s heart and soul when he returned to the community where he grew up in the 1980s.

The bar was featured by Anthony Bourdain on an episode of “No Reservations” just last month.

Pub-loving Brooklynites are raising cash to help Sunny's — the Red Hook watering hole run by the one and only Sunny Balzano.
Photo by Tom Callan