The Cyclone doesn’t rattle, the Wonder Wheel doesn’t turn and Astroland doesn’t make a peep.
Many of Coney Island’s tourist attractions are closed for the cold seasons—including the beach, officially—but that doesn’t mean that there are a lack of tourists or a lack of places to grab a beer.
Labor Day marks the end of the business season for most of the rides and restaurants, but, thanks in large part to an Indian summer, several spots on the boardwalk and elsewhere were still open on Wednesday afternoon to cater to the few people, mostly tourists, continuing to patronize Coney Island’s watering holes.
Cha Cha’s Bar and Café on Stillwell Avenue and the Boardwalk, a popular drinking destination along with neighboring Ruby’s, was still open but had only a single customer, a chap from London on holiday. Bartender John Thomas said that most of his customers this time of year are tourists.
“They’re from all over,” he said. “They’re beautiful people.”
Many other barkeepers and shopkeepers on the boardwalk agreed that most of their customers in the fall are tourists.
“They come to see Coney Island,” Thomas said, “but there is no Coney Island. There’s nothing to see.”
Surf Avenue, one block north of the boardwalk, also has plenty of places to buy a beer, including Peggy O’Neills, a bar built into the façade of KeySpan Park, the stadium that’s the home of the Brooklyn Cyclones, a minor league baseball team.
There was only one customer in the bar, watching television with the bartender. Peggy O’Neills stays open year-round, but does most of its business during the baseball season and then, in the fall and winter, on the weekends, said bartender Jamie King. It splits its business between locals and tourists.
“There’s always tourists in Coney Island,” King said.
A few blocks northeast, moving farther away from the boardwalk, is the Luna Park Saloon or, as its sign says, the Luna P rk S loon, nestled in a strip mall on Neptune Avenue.
The bar, named after an amusement park that burned down in the 1940’s, was by far the busiest in Coney Island that day, with more than a dozen men on the stools. They watched television: horse racing in one corner and the Clint Eastwood movie “High Plains Drifter” in the other.
“You have your neighborhood bar and your tourist bar,” explained Joe Taylor, a local patron. “This is a neighborhood bar.”
There wasn’t a tourist in sight.