Typically, Ruby’s Bar and Grill on the Coney Island Boardwalk doesn’t attract a steady crowd of 100 or more on a chilly afternoon in November; it’s unusual for them to run low on beer repeatedly, to have to restock case after case. But this past Saturday was no ordinary off-season day—it was, perhaps, Ruby’s last. The business, along with eight of its neighbors, has been ordered out by next weekend by new landlord Zamperla, a developer who wants to build upscale restaurants and a sports bar in their place.
Dozens of supporters filled the bar and spilled out onto the Boardwalk all afternoon. The mood among some was subdued. “Today is not a day of mourning,” the bartender on duty, Mike, said. “Today is a day for celebrating Ruby’s.” Others, though, were angry. “These families put their hears and souls into Coney Island,” Charlie Denson, the neighborhood’s premier historian, said indignantly.
Most of the attendees lent their signatures to a petition, in the hopes that elected officials and Zamperla could be pressured to allow Ruby’s to remain where it has for decades. They looked to the future with optimistic uncertainty. “After 75 years, this is our final call,” Melody Sarrel, Ruby’s owner, told the crowd of supporters. “Or maybe not.” After the speeches were through, she walked into the restaurant clutching a bouquet of flowers, stepped behind the deep fryer, wiped her watery eyes and ruddy nose with a crumpled tissue, and hugged her daughter.