When we heard Cha Chas was being forced out of the new Phony Island along with eight other businesses, we knew there was only one man to call: the Unofficial Mayor of Little Italy, John Cha Cha Ciarcia. He told us just what we wanted to hear: Tomorrow, he plans to meet with a lawyer to find a way to fight what he describes as a criminal act and a conspiracy.
Cha Cha says that over the summer, around June or July, Central Amusement told him they were planning to renew his lease: They told me they were going to give me [a renewal for] three [years], three, and three nine years. He says a French company that was handling Central Amusements food and beverage program asked him to submit a business plan and he did so, promising to spend half a million dollars turning his dive into the lost city of Atlantis, with live music and entertainment and food.
It sounded like a sure thing, Cha Cha says of Central Amusements initial assurances of renewal. They probably told us that because if they told us they were going to throw us out, we wouldnt pay the rent. Which Im sorry I paid the rent. (In the nine years hes operated the bar, rent has gone up from $15,000 to $100,000.) Sure enough, Cha Cha received a notice via FedEx telling him he had twelve days to vacate, but he says emptying the bar of all of its kitsch would be impossible in that time. Im not going to get out without a fight, he says. And he says that the operators of Rubys, Shoot the Freak, the Grill House, and Gregory & Pauls are joining him in speaking to a lawyer (Cha Cha also operates Beer Island).
Lauryn Chinnici, a waitress at the Mulberry Street and Coney locations of Cha Chas, told us, My heart is broken. I want to break down and cry. Theyre going to try to turn it into A.C., but what they dont understand is its an urban community and the urban is not going to move out of that community. Bloomberg does not go to bat for the people that live here and its all about the tourists and what they can bring in. Cha Cha agrees: Coney Island is the poor mans paradise, and theyre full of baloney about making it a year-round amusement park. Unless theyre going to dome it, itll never be year-round. If these people think theyre going to go in there and pay year-round rent, it aint going to happen. Citing boardwalk rumors presumably based on a Daily News item back in August, Cha Cha says, To throw out people whove been there in order to bring in newcomers like Atomic Wings and Shake Shack is not the thing to do.
Okay, but what if it happens? Will Cha Chas at least reopen for a good-bye party?
I dont know if were going to say good-bye to the place, says Cha Cha. Im going to leave that to the judge.