Sandy-ravaged Sunny’s Bar raises $12,000 at benefit concert

Sandy-ravaged Sunny’s Bar raises $12,000 at benefit concert
Photo by Stefano Giovannini

Sunny days are forecast for Red Hook’s iconic Sunny’s Bar.

A benefit concert at the Bell House May 1 raised about $12,000 to fund repairs for the Conover Street bar that has been shuttered since getting clobbered by Hurricane Sandy.

“It was such a grand party,” said owner Sunny Balzano.

More than 400 fans of the historic watering hole attended the concert to help the superstorm-battered bar get back on its feet, said Balzano. He said he felt overwhelmed by the outpouring of love he received when he stepped on the stage to thank the massive crowd.

“I have this thing about this bar where I never really felt like it was mine,” said the legendary barkeep, whose grandfather opened the quaint pub in 1890. “I always felt like it belonged to all of us and by seeing everyone out there in that particular moment made me feel that it does in fact belong to all of us.”

Balzano, who runs Sunny’s Bar with his wife, Tone Johansen, produced the concert to kick off a 45-day fund-raising campaign on Indiegogo to cover the pub’s hefty repair costs. The show featured bands including the Red Hook Ramblers, John Pinamonti, Li’l Mo and the Monicats, Kings’ County Blues Band, Luna Sisters, Simon Chardiet, The Woes, and Dave, Vic, & Friends. Still, the money raised from the concert only covers a small portion of the $80,000 needed for a complete restoration of the bar. The owners desperately hope to reopen by June.

Like many small business owners, Johansen and Balzano have struggled since the superstorm hit six months ago and inundated the pub. The couple has worked to piece the damaged place back together with help from their friends.

A successful $35,000 Kickstarter campaign in December paid for a new boiler room, gas line, compressors, electric service, and flooring, but the basement alone still needs a tremendous amount of work. The basement, where Johansen narrowly escaped Sandy’s rushing floodwaters, has major structural damage and needs new flooring, beams, and pilings.

The fund-raising campaign is crucial since the bar was denied a disaster assistance loan from the Small Business Administration.

As of press time, just $1,091 out of the $65,000 goal for Sunny’s Bar had been raised on the Indiegogo website. Still, Balzano remains hopeful that come June he will be serving brews at the pub once again.

“I’m very optimistic, mostly because I know I’m not alone,” he said. “I have the world behind me.”

To donate to Sunny’s Bar visit: http://www.indiegogo.com/projects/sunny-s-bar

Reach reporter Natalie Musumeci at nmusumeci@cnglocal.com or by calling (718) 260-4505. Follow her at twitter.com/souleddout.