10 months after getting clobbered by Hurricane Sandy, the long-standing waterfront bar Sunny's will officially reopen next week. The old Red Hook building, which dates back to 1854, sustained serious structural damage as a result of flooding, and for most of the past year its future remained uncertain. But owners Sunny Balzano and Tone Johansen were determined to persevere, and after raising approximately $100,000 through numerous fundraisers, the bar will be ready for business on Balzano's 78th birthday: August 29th.
"I'm ecstatic," Johansen says. "I ordered the liquor today, that will come in tomorrow. We'll stock up and we're ready to party!" The festivities on the 29th will start at 7:30 p.m. with music by house band Smokey's Round-Up (whatever happened to the Gowanus Canal Boys?!) and a BBQ from local restaurant Hometown. "It's time to let go a little bit," Johansen says with a sigh of relief.
Asked why it all took so long, Johansen explains, "Because of the structural repairs. We had to get engineer reports, geotechnical reports, and they had to do a test boring, and surveys, and architecture drawings that had to be filed, just to get to the point of construction." According to Johansen, the construction itself only took a month.
Johansen was down in the basement when torrential hurricane surge floodwaters blasted through a window and quickly rose up around her. "It filled the basement in no time and blew out a big chunk of the foundation," she recalled. To help prepare for another flood of this magnitude, Johansen has raised everything in the basement "as high as I could. It's in much better shape now. We have steel beams, a foundation wall with concrete injections with steel rods—it's all kinds crazy construction."
The property itself is co-owned between Balzano and some 18 cousins, but the business is owned by Johansen and Balzano, whose grandfather opened the bar in 1890. But the couple recently learned that it was a bar even before that. According to Johansen, "A genealogist came by two days ago and said her forefather lived in the apartment next to the bar in 1870 and he was the saloon-keeper!"