Last Call at Ruby’s: “SHAME ON YOU, ZAMPERLA”

Moments before the shutter came down.
Moments before the shutter came down. Photo: Daniel Maurer

Saturday’s rally to save Ruby’s was as bittersweet as a pint of Ruby’s brew. If the house brew was bittersweet — it wasn’t on tap when we stopped in around 3 p.m. Sean Kershaw and the New Jack Ramblers were doing their rockabilly thing on the boardwalk, and a crowd of an estimated 200 was being babysat by a couple of police cruisers. There were “SUCK IT, ZAMPERLA” balloons and “SHAME ON YOU, ZAMPERLA” signs, and a petition out front. Melody Sarrel (daughter of Ruby Jacobs) shuffled around with tears streaming down her cheeks while husband Michael attended to the rapidly dwindling bottles (first went the Jack, then the Johnnie Black, then the Johnnie Red, and finally the Seagrams), but just like Sarrel promised, the “rally” was more of a joyful celebration. As the buzz set in and a cover band belted out “Suffragette City,” it was easy to forget that this would probably be the bar’s last day.

In a speech, Cindy Jacobs-Allman recalled her father: “When people used to come and ask him what is the best item on the menu, he used to take people out to the boardwalk rail and say, ‘Look at that tapestry of humanity.’” And what a tapestry it was: “Princess Capri” Djatiasmoro of the Coney Island Polar Bear Club wore a penguin hat. Rogue taxidermist Takeshi Yamada showed off his Coney Island Sea Rabbit. Coney historians Dick Zigun and Charles Denson were there, as were burlesque performers like Dick Velour and sideshow performers like Eak the Geek. Reverend Billy kept it low-key. Dive-bar writer Joshua M. Bernstein stopped by with tour guide Matt Levy. Jim Shannon, a Ruby’s regular of 50 years, wore a “Coney Island” straw hat. Eventually a man in a biker jacket passed out on the couch in back, to the delight of dozens of photographers (you can see their Flickr sets below). And sometime after sunset, someone offered us pot brownies. But the most notable thing we scored, around 5:30 p.m., was the last packet of ketchup.

At some point, Michael Sarrel took down the last of the Ruby’s T-shirts that say “SAVE CONEY ISLAND” on the back and distributed them to the crowd. Around 10 p.m., he put the stools up on the bar one last time and lowered the shutter.

Save Ruby’s [Pine Ear’s Flickr]
Ruby’s Bar — Coney Island [Cootiegarage’s Flickr]
Ruby’s Bar and Grill: The last hurrah/rally to save [Miss Cox’s Flickr]
Ruby’s Rally — November 6, 2010 [Coney Gal’s Flickr]
Coney Island Boardwalk Eviction Protest [Jamie NYC’s Flickr]
Ruby’s Bar and Grill [LisanneMcT’s Flickr]

Nov 6, 2010: Ruby’s Rally, Party & Last Call
[Me-Myself-I’s Flickr]
Last Call at Ruby’s [Pablo 57’s Flickr]
Ruby’s Final Call on the Boardwalk Nov. 2010 [Ruby’s Host’s Flickr]

News Coverage
Mourning Coney Island Institution, Ruby’s Bar, 1934–2010 [Gothamist]
Coney Island Tenants Lose Out on Lease [NY1]
Hundreds Gather in Coney Island to Protest Closure of Boardwalk Businesses [WNYC]
One Last Drink at Ruby’s on the Boardwalk [Brooklyn Paper]
It’s a Sad Last ‘Bawl’ at Coney Island Bar [NYP]
’They’re ripping the heart out of the island,’ says customer of booted Ruby’s Bar & Grill [NYDN]
Coney Island fixtures to close [Photo Blog/MSNBC]
Last Call at Ruby’s— or Maybe Not [L Magazine]
Video: Historian Charles Denson & Ruby’s Daughter Speak for the Real Coney Island [Amusing the Zillion]

Last Call at Ruby’s: “SHAME ON YOU, ZAMPERLA”