By now you know that the old theater on 116th Street is down, and that the talented Maribel has opened a new restaurant on the commercial strip because you read The Rockaway Times, or at least look at the front-page photos. But did you know that the inside of Rogers is going through a huge renovation?
A few years ago, Rogers and the entire building that houses the bar was purchased by Mike McMahon, and he fixed up the inside to make it presentable, and added music every Friday, Saturday and Sunday. That didn’t seem to bother the old regulars, who I’m not quite sure recognized that their surroundings had changed. But with the addition of super good and friendly bartenders, and the addition of all things Irish (especially football), things started to pick up in the old place.
So, when the country-pickin’ Graytrippers waltzed in for their quarterly gig at Rogers this past Friday night, they were surprised to see that the place was going through another transformation. I don’t know how they did it, but seemingly overnight the place got bigger. They ripped out the men’s room, which now makes room for a dancing area, and ripped the walls back to the exposed brick. The men’s room was moved to the back hall; and, is for sure, the nicest bathroom on all of 116th Street!
Apparently two or three Irish carpenters were working at night and literally overnight put in woodwork all over the bar, added a recessed ceiling and lights, and trimmed out all the details. And they are not done by any stretch. They also added big screens all around, but the good news is that the beer, especially the Guinness is still great, and the servers are the same great guys.
Now everything else I’m about to say is based not upon what I know, but about what I hear. And what I hear is that the owner is adding 22 rooms upstairs and plans to open as a hotel next spring. And from what I saw briefly looking up the side stairs, that work is proceeding. Now I have to say, given all the other changes on Beach 116th Street, this is absolutely brilliant on his part.
My only complaint is that the stage is still smallish, but what other venue in Rockaway has a stage!
The other charming aspect about Rogers is the clientele, which are pure Rockaway originals. By that, and I mean no disrespect, there aren’t any phonies here. And Rogers always attracts a late-night group that decides, “you know what, before I go home, let me stop in and have one more.” When we play there, it’s a blast to have a conversation with someone who has made that decision, because the conversations are memorable. Take, for instance, the one I had this past Friday. A friend who stopped in for “one last one,” told me that Rockaway has some all-star musicians, but that the Trippers are probably a cut below that level. Or the group that came in just as we finished, asking could they play one song? Sure, I said, what could happen? One song turned into a four-song mini set! You just can’t get entertainment like this on Netflix or Amazon, trust me!
So, I would give it a little time, but if you are heading home one night this winter and have a little fuel still left in the tank, poke your head in to Rogers for "one last one" and check out the transformation, it’s gonna be awesome!