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Sunny’s saved! Red Hook bar raises enough money to stay open • Brooklyn Paper

Sunny’s saved! Red Hook bar raises enough money to stay open

Packed house: Sunny’s, known for its cheap beer and live music, has been a Red Hook staple for 127 years — and will continue to be, now that owner Tone Johansen raised enough money to keep the bar open.
Photo by Stefano Giovannini

Talk about a sunny day.

Beloved Red Hook bar Sunny’s raised enough money to keep its doors open, exceeding its $65,000 fund-raising goal by three thousand dollars this week. And while that should be plenty of cash to keep the bar afloat, its owner said she isn’t popping open cold ones to celebrate — yet.

“It feels really fantastic, but I’ve been kind of careful not to celebrate too much because I haven’t closed on the building yet,” said Tone Johansen, the widow of the bar’s founder, Sunny Balzano, and its only remaining owner.

Johansen raised $68,000 since launching her “Sunny’s Forever” campaign in March, which she organized to pool together the cash needed to buy shares in the property owned by 18 members of Balzano’s extended family after he died of a stroke least year.

The bar on Conover Street between Reed and Beard streets has been a neighborhood staple for 127 years, but the family reportedly preferred to sell it until Johnson agreed to a court settlement to buy them out for $2.6 million.

Most of the moolah she raised will be for down payment on that sum, she said, and the rest will cover the $35,000 in legal fees the bar racked up in its three-year court battle.

The deal on the bar is expected to close in the next week.

Blast from the past: A look inside Sunny’s from back in the day.
Tone Balzano

Johansen is thrilled that people from near and far helped her keep the watering hole known for its live music and cheap beer open, she said, noting the century-plus-old bar’s feel-good atmosphere is what inspired people to preserve it.

“People who come here feel they can live in the moment and that life is possible, life is good,” she said. “They can put not just their troubles, but their jobs, ambitions, future, and past outside the door and just be present.”

The owner appeared on Brooklyn Paper Radio in April to tout her fund-raising campaign, which raised $20,000 in just one week after the show aired. The broadcast was accompanied by a Daily News column by co-host Gersh Kuntzman, who said he considers his helping the cause as one of the highlights of his life.

“I have never been prouder of myself than when I provided minimal help to save a bar at which I enjoy drinking and listening to music,” he said.

Sunny’s hosted art shows, jazz nights, and concerts to promote the campaign as well, and will throw another festive fund-raiser at Littlefield in Gowanus on June 21, featuring musical performances from Smokey’s Round-up, Marc Ribot, Lil’ Mo and the Monicats, and Johansen herself.

Check it out at Littlefield [635 Sackett St. at Fourth Ave in Gowanus, (718) 855–3388, www.littlefieldnyc.com] June 21 from 7 pm. $60.

Reach reporter Lauren Gill at lgill@cnglocal.com or by calling (718) 260–2511. Follow her on Twitter @laurenk_gill
Sunny's savior: Tone Johansen raised enough money to keep Red Hook's beloved watering hole open, collecting $68,000 which she will use as a down payment on the bar.
Photo by Stefano Giovannini

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