Fresher look comes to bar in Bayside

Patti Hotetz, a bartender at Safari Beach Club, says the bar has "a lot more action" than it did when it was Johnny Famous. Photo by Rich Bockmann
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One bar on Bayside’s Bell Boulevard stands out from among the others.

When the owners of Safari Beach Club took over the space previously occupied by Johnny Famous, they decided the blocky wall of timber that served as a storefront was the first thing that had to go.

The entire front of the building got a facelift, including a fresh coat of paint on top of a wall of windows.

“You drive down Bell and you see this big, white building,” said co-owner Cary O’Connor, who used to be a partner at Local Bar and Grill across the street.

The changes were not completely aesthetic, though. The previous entrance used to lead into a small room that obscured the view into the bar.

“You couldn’t really see inside,” O’Connor said. “You could come in and pay a $5 or $10 cover charge and there’d be no one inside.”

With the door moved to the opposite side, thirsty patrons enter to the sight of a jigsaw-shaped bar that reaches all the way to the back — the idea being that more corners provide the opportunity for more socializing, more sharing of the 25-cent wings served any time a New York sports team appears on one of more than 25 televisions throughout the bar.

The interior, too, got a brighter makeover.

“[My business partner] had this idea that all the other places on Bell are kind of dark and dingy, so we used white,” O’Connor said.

Safari certainly has an open feel. It has a certificate of occupancy for 250 people — the largest on Bell — and split between two bars there are 120 bar stools.

For those who prefer to be a bit more active as they enjoy one of the 15 beers on tap, there are pool tables and vintage arcade games.

Gone is Johnny Famous’ mechanical bull, rumored to be somewhere down on Queens Boulevard now, and in its place is a newly built stage that will bring live music back to the venue.

O’Connor said the bar offers time-tested menu items — “stoned-out food,” he called it — such as meatloaf, french-dip sliders, a roast pork hero and more than 15 different kinds of sauces for wings.

The owner said he has plans to open up the dining room in March.

“We’re going to have a new menu: still pub grub, but with some healthier items,” such as fresh fish and, during the summer, clams and oysters on a half shell, he said.

O’Connor said he and his partners have a strong pedigree in the bar business, and they know what works on Bell.

“We want to be known as a place people come and have fun,” he said. “That’s the reason we’re here: booze and food!”

Reach reporter Rich Bockmann by e-mail at rbockmann@cnglocal.com or by phone at 718-260-4574.

Posted 7:51 am, February 23, 2012
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mike from manhasset says:
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March 1, 2012, 12:14 am

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