Sunny’s in Red Hook still needs your help, plans to reopen this June

The iconic watering hole isn’t over Sandy just yet. Chip in during a benefit party at the Bell House tonight—or donate to the bar’s new online fund-raising campaign.

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  • Photograph: Josh Raab

    Sunny Balzano outside Sunny's after Hurricane Sandy

  • Photograph: Josh Raab

    Tone Johansen, left, in Sunny's after Hurricane Sandy

  • Photograph: Josh Raab

    Sunny's after Hurricane Sandy

  • Photograph: Josh Raab

    Outside Sunny's after Hurricane Sandy

  • Photograph: Josh Raab

  • Photograph: Josh Raab

    Sunny's after Hurricane Sandy

  • Photograph: Josh Raab

    The basement of Sunny's after Hurricane Sandy

  • Photograph: Josh Raab

    Sunny's after Hurricane Sandy

  • Photograph: Josh Raab

    Sunny's after Hurricane Sandy

  • Photograph: Josh Raab

    Sunny's after Hurricane Sandy

  • Photograph: Josh Raab

    Sunny's after Hurricane Sandy

  • Photograph: Josh Raab

    Tone Johansen in Sunny's after Hurricane Sandy

  • Photograph: Josh Raab

    Sunny's after Hurricane Sandy

Photograph: Josh Raab

Sunny Balzano outside Sunny's after Hurricane Sandy


Sandy may have stormed through NYC more than six months ago, but you’d think it just hit last week from talking with Tone Johansen, co-owner of beloved Red Hook bar Sunny’s. "I’m still looking for my shoes," says Johansen, who lives in the same building as the bar with her husband—and the drinkery’s namesake—Sunny Balzano. "I’m still walking in boots. But I found my heels. So I’ve got heels and I’ve got boots." (Click through the slide show above for pics of Sunny’s poststorm cleanup effort.)

If you’re unfamiliar with the bar, here’s a brief rundown: It’s been around in one fashion or another since 1890, when it served as a haunt for postshift ship workers. And it feels that old, bursting with a warm, lived-in vibe, charming odds-and-ends decor, old-timey tunes and a decidedly nonsceney cast of patrons. Not to get all philosophical and Anthony Bourdain–like on you (watch his No Reservations segment on the bar below), but it’s something permanent in a city that’s constantly changing. For what it’s worth, it also happens to be this writer’s favorite bar in New York.

And it’s in dire need of funding. The owners launched a Kickstarter campaign to help with the bar's post-Sandy cleanup, and surpassed that goal, but repairs proved to be more extensive than they'd originally estimated. "We thought we were reaching the finish line," says Johansen. "Then all of a sudden it’s like we’re in a labyrinth, going around and around. That’s what it felt like, because the work we have to do in the basement is kind of extensive—there’s columns, there’s beams, there’s major construction. And when we didn’t get an SBA loan, it’s like, What are we gonna do?"

What they did was organize a big benefit bash at The Bell House, which happens tonight (doors 7pm; $30, VIP tickets $60) and features throwback artists who’ve jammed at Sunny’s, such as the Red Hook Ramblers, John Pinamonti, and Lil' Mo and the Monicats. Earlier today, Johansen & Co. launched an Indiegogo fund-raising page, and hope to raise at least $65,000 in the next 45 days. 

"I feel like people are kind of forgetting that we’re still in the ditch," she says of the inspiration for the latest campaign. "I’m like, Let’s both celebrate, spread the word and raise the money all at the same time. We just hope to get enough money to open the doors. That’s all we want, to open the doors."

And if all goes as planned, those doors—much to the delight of many, many people—should open by late June. Save a stool for us.

Sunny's on No Reservations

Tone Johansen discusses Sunny's during Hurricane Sandy


Users say

1 comments
Jill DeGroff
Jill DeGroff

Your article inspired us to organize another fundraiser for Sunny's so they can complete their restoration, we love this bar and consider it to be a historical landmark. Allen Katz from the NY Distilling Company and Dale DeGroff from The Museum of the American Cocktail made it their mission to recruit 20 sponsor brands willing to step forward with $1500 each in order to meet Sunny's goal to raise $30,000 to save their damaged foundation and restore their historic bar. So far we are halfway there. Sunny's Rescue Party will be held from 6-9pm at New York Distilling Co. in Williamsburg, Brooklyn and will feature some wonderful musical talent from Red Hook and more than a dozen top bartenders crafting cocktails with the supporting brands. Tickets can be purchased at: http://southernfood.org/sofab/?p=7987 ALL PROCEEDS go to Sunnys. If you can help us spread the word we'd be much obliged! Thank you,