A couple of legendary dive bars — one already closed and another at risk — are fighting their way back into the city’s nightlife. Chinatown karaoke bar, Winnie’s, formerly at 104 Bayard St., may be reopening south of its original location, at 58 East Broadway, according to Bowery Boogie. And Sunny’s in Red Hook, a bar at 253 Conover St. known as an artists’ hangout, has been at risk of being auctioned off, but the Times reports that just last week, proprietor Sunny Balzano’s widow, Tone Balzano Johansen, gained the right to buy the building.
It’s a win for people who love the unpretentious vibes, cheap beer, and sense of community of dive bars. Longtime dives in New York have been closing in droves for years — which leads to the loss of places like Hogs and Heifers in the Meatpacking District — as rents rise in previously-affordable areas. Most of them to do not relocate.
Winnie’s closed in 2015 after nearly 30 years in Chinatown. The owners didn’t have a lease and the landlord decided to rent to chef Gerardo Gonzalez for Lalo instead. At the time, a revival wasn’t expected.
Bowery Boogie hears that the new Winnie’s is run by the same ownership and the new location needs a buildout. It sounds like it will hardly resemble the old Winnie’s, but it will have karaoke. The team will be presenting plans to Community Board 3 next month to request a liquor license.
The story for Sunny’s is a bit more complicated. Balzano died last year after suffering from a stroke. His family has owned the bar since the late 1800’s; for years, family members pressured Balzano and his wife Johansen to sell the bar as real estate prices in the neighborhood went up. After Balzano’s death, many of the family members that owned the property fought over what to do, according to the Times.
Johansen wanted to keep it open as a bar and finally gained the legal right to buy the building last week. She still has to raise $2.6 million in the next six months to keep it.