Hurricane Sandy-battered Sunny’s Bar in Red Hook to host benefit concert at the Bell House

Saving Sunny’s days

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It’s last call to help a Brooklyn bar get back on its feet.

The iconic Sunny’s Bar hopes to reopen its doors to Red Hook patrons this June, but only if it generates enough cash to cover the hefty costs of the remaining repair work.

To raise the money, owners of the beloved pub on Conover Street are hosting a “May Day Party for Sunny’s” benefit concert on May 1 at the Bell House to kick off a month-long fund-raising campaign on Indiegogo.

“It really is a do or die for us,” said co-owner Tone Johansen, wife of the pub’s legendary barkeep Sunny Balzano. “Time is ticking when you’re in a crisis — our survival hinges on the bar and the bar being open and we’re just fighting forward.”

Like many small business owners, Johansen and Balzano have struggled ever since the superstorm hit six months ago and completely inundated the century-old saloon, forcing the couple to work day-in and day-out to piece the clobbered place back together — but not without some 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 bar still has an estimated $80,000 worth of repairs in the basement alone, where Johansen narrowly escaped Sandy’s rushing floodwaters.

The upcoming fundraising campaign and the benefit concert are a necessity since the pub did not receive a disaster assistance loan from the Small Business Administration because of complications due to its age, said Johansen.

“The bar has been here for a century so it’s not like a regular lease on the property and the paperwork that the SBA requires,” she said.

In lieu of the government support, the owners of the bar are depending on folks showing up to the concert, which will include an array of bands including the Red Hook Ramblers, John Pinamonti, Li’l Mo and the Monicats, Kings’ County Blues Band, Luna Sisters, Dave, Vic, & Friends, Simon Chardiet, and The Woes, as well as contributions on the fund-raising website.

Johansen said that without the dozens of volunteers that continue to help aid the historic establishment on its road to recovery, Sunny’s Bar would probably not have a chance.

“I’m very grateful that we still have the support at this point and I’m also very happy that I put together a plan and it’s in action,” she said, adding that there’s nothing more that she and her husband want than to finally open Sunny’s doors come June.

“I feel like this is the purpose of my life,” she said.

“May Day Party for Sunny’s” at the Bell House [149 Seventh St. between Second and Third avenues in Gowanus, (718) 643–6510,]. May 1, 7 pm, $30 at Ticketweb. The Indiegogo campaign goes live May 1.

Reach reporter Natalie Musumeci at or by calling (718) 260-4505. Follow her at

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