It was no longer the Happiest Place on Earth. Not when the staff got the news last week that Dalton’s Seaside Grill was closing its doors for good on Sunday, October 16. Tears flowed and owner Mike Dalton called it sad and devastating, for the family that owned the place, the staff, and for the community it has served.
But there are plans to make it a very happy place again.
An independent boutique hotel with a swimming pool, banquet hall and a rooftop bar will rise on the entire block, which includes Daltons, from Beach 108th to Beach 109th along Rockaway Beach Boulevard.
Dalton said yes, he was saddened by the closing, but it’s ultimately the right call for the community. “I’m all about what’s right for Rockaway. And this is gonna be great.”
The investment and developer group behind the ambitious project includes Daniel “Dee” Tubridy and his brother Terence Tubridy, born and bred locals and principals in the popular Bungalow Bar on Beach 92nd Street and other venues in the City. The project will also include at least one Dalton -- Mike Dalton – the chef and kitchen boss who was called “an older brother to us” by Dee Tubridy. When they were just kids getting started in the working world, both Tubridys worked under Mike in various local establishments. And Mike had worked for Dan, father of Dee and Terence, at Pier 92. The ties are long established and remain tight. Terence said whenever they look to open new places, Mike comes along to help the launch.
The move to include Dalton’s Seaside Grill in the overall plan is fairly recent. Almost two years ago the Tubridys and partners met with the Rockaway Civic Association, the Community Board, and elected officials to introduce the hotel idea and begin the process of winning community support which Terence maintains is essential to the hotel’s ultimate success. “It’s a huge deal and the community has to get behind us, be part of it.”
The initial idea included the old Tubridy bar and building on the corner of Beach 109th and the adjacent parking lot. The original plan sought to complement Dalton’s. But plans evolved and as more amenities were considered and the required financial investment grew, it became apparent that it would be better to expand the plan to include the entire block. By including Dalton’s, Terence said, they could “build something that looks like it belongs. We want to honor the history of the block.” Mike Dalton agreed. “A single project would be better for the community.”
There was more to the process than just longtime friends shaking hands.
The process also called for rezoning which was approved by a City Council subcommittee just last week. The rezoning was a monumental milestone and allows for the plans to move full steam ahead. But even steaming ahead doesn’t mean there won’t be changes. As things stand now, the Rockaway Beach Hotel will be six stories high, offer between 50 and 60 rooms, a “beautiful lobby” to be used by “neighbors who might come in for wi-fi and maybe a cup of coffee,” an outdoor pool with a bar area, a rooftop bar with bay and ocean views, a banquet hall able to hold a party of 250-300 people and a bar restaurant that will “serve the neighborhood just like Dalton’s.”
And speaking of neighborhoods there’s the price tag of this project which will be in the neighborhood of $40 million. The Tubridys acknowledged the steep price but said Rockaway is ready. They cited the millions of visitors who come here every year and have few lodging options. They noted the new boardwalk, the national park that surrounds Rockaway, the proximity to JFK and the ferry among the reasons why the big investment is a sound one. “We believe in this area. And why not us?”
Raising capital is the immediate task at hand. They said they’ll raise what they can from family and friends and then beyond. They expect a bank to come onboard at some point but the initial focus will be on private fundraising. ( Contact information for the Tubridys will be included at the end of this article for interested investors.)
Although fundraising is a wild card of sorts, the schedule calls for groundbreaking in the spring of 2017. And “if everything falls into place we plan on opening in the spring of 2019.”
And for many, that will be the rebirth of the “happiest place on earth” which Dalton’s has called itself since it opened in 2010 after brothers Chris, Sean, Mark and Mike Dalton purchased Snug Harbor in 2010 from Frank Gallagher. The site has long had unofficial landmark status as it was also known as McGuire’s for many years.
Dalton’s fans should be reassured because Dee Tubridy said, “This (Dalton’s) is my favorite bar.” That sentiment, they say, will certainly find its way into the Rockaway Beach Hotel plan.
As for what appeared to be a sudden (and shocking) announcement about the closing of Dalton’s, Mike said a few factors were involved. The bar’s liquor license is set to expire and running a business while inevitable rumors swirled wouldn’t be fair to staff or customers. He said it would be impossible to hang on to staff who would naturally seek other jobs if he put a closing date further out. And he would want them to find jobs as well. To that, both Tubridys said they would seek to hire Dalton’s current staff at Bungalow Bar and other places they operate.
Although the official last day is Sunday it is expected that Saturday night will represent the final curtain, the last blast. The popular band, Wine With Sue, promises to play all night, and Mike Dalton said it’ll be a night to remember – in a place people won’t forget.
Like many, the Tubridys and Daltons will, no doubt, raise a glass to the memories. But they’ll also toast a future that’s bright and good for the community they love.