2006-02-03 / Front Page

Sunset Diner To Close This Month

By Brian Magoolaghan

Attorney Vincent L. Petraro shows members of Community Board 14’s Land Use Committee a rendering of what Steve Good would like to build in place of The Beach Club on Beach 116 Street. 
Attorney Vincent L. Petraro shows members of Community Board 14’s Land Use Committee a rendering of what Steve Good would like to build in place of The Beach Club on Beach 116 Street. It’s confirmed. The Rockaway Sunset Diner is being sold to a nationally recognized retailer, the owner of the landmark property told The Wave this week.

Steve Good accepted an offer last Friday and called an all-staff meeting on Monday to inform his 50 full- and part-time employees. The diner’s closing will come quickly: Sunday, February 12, he said.

The news, which instantly made the Rockaway rumor mill, took many by surprise. The diner’s prominent location on Beach 116 Street and Beach Channel Drive has made it as familiar to residents and visitors as the ocean, the beach and the bay.

Good sat down with The Wave this week and spoke candidly about his reason for selling and his plans for the future. He declined to name the buyer, saying only that it was “a national retail name,” and declined to state his selling price. The transaction is not complete and documents related to the deal are therefore not yet available for public inspection.

The decision to sell, Good said, came down to basic economics.

“Too much overhead and not enough cash flow – for five years straight,” Good said.

Good and his brother/business partner, Kenny, took over the old Ram’s Horn diner in 2001 and, after a costly renovation, opened the Sunset. It was a “defensive” move to protect their other business, The Beach Club, from outside competition, but it never became profitable, he said.

It was frustrating for the Goods, who’ve had success on the same street with a string of food businesses that were more and more ambitious: The Last Stop, Delicious Endings, and The All American Eatery before their mainstay, The Beach Club.

Good said the diner’s failure to turn the corner was a perplexing situation that caused self-doubt. He would see that the booths and tables were often full, yet the books showed he was in the red. “It’s busy, but it still doesn’t support the bills,” he said.

Then last July, Kenny left the operation and Steve found himself spread too thin. “I’ve been losing my mind. I can’t work a 100-hour work week.” With a new venture involving The Beach Club taking shape, Good said he was forced to make a tough decision.

“I know it’s a hardship for the 50 people who work there and I’m trying my best to do the right thing by them,” Good told us.

Diner workers this week were not eager to talk about what seemed more like a family matter than a business decision. “It’s a touchy subject,” said a female employee stationed near the register. “It’s a good place. We’re losing an excellent boss, a good man,” the woman said. She declined to give her name.

Still, some could not be silent when asked about what this means for them.

“I think everyone here is going to be OK,” Annie, a waitress, said during a quick break from her tables. A student with a second job as a bartender, she’s also been working for the Goods for seven years. “Everybody here is like family. I think that’s what I’m going to miss the most – the people,” she added before going back to check on her tables.

The bond between employer and employee made announcing the decision tough for Good. “It was a sad night. It was really hard to deal with something like that,” he said.

And what about the community, with which Good also developed a bond through his contributions to countless public events?

“The community is not got going to be happy with me in the short-run, but in the long run it will be good,” he said. “I’m not cutting and running. I’m still here and I’m looking to do bigger and better things here in Rockaway.”

Good, who has partnered with a developer, is moving forward with a project to turn The Beach Club into a residential building with a bar/restaurant on the first floor. The project, which requires a zoning variance, would climb to the same height as Ocean Grande, which is just to the south.

Attorney Vincent L. Petraro and architect William Leggio presented preliminary plans to Community Board 14’s Land Use Committee at a meeting Tuesday night. The plans call for 58 units with 72 parking spaces: one space per unit with the remainder for the retail business. That amount exceeds code requirements, but board members said they want to see two spaces per unit.

Bernie Feuer, a resident of Beach 117 Street, raised questions over a proposed parking lot exit on his street, saying it would cause “gridlock parking” and bring increased traffic.

Good’s representatives agreed to address both issues. The plans, which have not yet been filed with the city, remain somewhat flexible, they said. Members of the Land Use Committee recommended that the men come back with revisions at a future meeting. There was no vote, and no return date was set.

The day after the presentation, Good stood in the doorway of The Beach Club’s booking office, surveying the street where he has been in business since 1984. “This is where my life is, my future,” he said. “It’s time, it’s time to change [Beach] 116 Street.”

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