All but one of the Boardwalk entrepreneurs in Coney Island will be back this summer, ending months of uncertainty as the merchants hammered out deals with their landlord, Thor Equities, the main landowner in the amusement area.
The announcement on Monday that Cha Cha’s, Ruby’s Old Tyme Bar, Shoot the Freak and others will be back for at least one more season on the Riegelmann Boardwalk comes amid a stepped-up campaign by Thor owner Joe Sitt to show that he is providing a bustling, boisterous summer of activity on his 10-1/2 acres between the Cyclone roller coaster and Keyspan Park.
Sitt also recently announced a so-called “Festival by the Sea,” which will feature dozens of rides and sideshow acts on West 10th Street and a flea market on Stillwell Avenue.
“This summer will be the best we have had in decades, as the Festival is bringing new rides, new vendors, better freaks and filling the Boardwalk with the institutions that have been here for generations,” Sitt boldly predicted in a statement.
The tenants rejoiced, too, although their rents were raised this season.
“We are thrilled to be coming back and to be a part of the festival,” said John Ciarco, owner of Cha Cha’s.
Coney Island appeared headed towards a hard luck summer with Astroland closed, leaving only one full-fledged amusement park in operation — Deno’s Wonder Wheel.
But the People’s Playground may actually benefit from the current game of one-upsmanship between Sitt and the city, which wants to buy his land as part of a planned new amusement park, hotels and attractions.
The city unveiled its ace in the hole last Friday, announcing that Ringling Brothers and Barnum & Bailey Circus was booked for a special summer engagement in Coney Island.
The one Boardwalk lease that Thor did not renew belonged to Dianna Carlin, the owner of Lola Staar, a T-shirt boutique. Carlin, who had been an outspoken critic of the real-estate company, will reopen her shop, possibly on Memorial Day weekend, at a kiosk in the Stillwell Avenue subway station.
She panned Sitt’s record as a landlord.
“He’s not about building his tenant-landlord relationships,” Carlin told The Brooklyn Paper. “It’s about his negotiations with the city and making as much money as possible.”