It was arguably the oldest continuously operational bar in the city, until Hurricane Sandy destroyed the historic Bridge Cafe, but the restaurant that some call an anchor of the South Street Seaport is finally on its way back. NY1's Jon Weinstein filed the following report.
At the edge of the South Street Seaport, in the shadow of the Brooklyn Bridge, sits the Bridge Cafe. The place is still closed, but there's plenty of activity.
"We're going to reopen. We have to," said Adam Weprin, the owner of the Bridge Cafe. "It's something that I have to do for myself, for our family, and now, for our patrons."
"As an establishment, it's sort of been like a cornerstone of the neighborhood," said one person.
When NY1 last visited 10 months ago, the historic spot built in 1794 was barren, and the storm's destruction was still evident.
The repair work has revealed some surprises. For instance, in the kitchen, workers found a startling design flaw from literally more than a century ago.
"And you're like, 'Wood behind stoves.' 'Oy' is the only word for that," Weprin said. "This will all come out."
Weprin is paying for the rebuild out of his own pocket with no insurance money, but he did get some donations, including from his sister, whose own restaurant recently closed.
"The soul of a restaurant is its stoves, and she's giving those to me and donating those to the Bridge Cafe," Weprin said.
Most of the work below ground is done. The foundation is re-set, and the building's original wood beams have been replaced. However, they're not throwing away that wood just yet.
"It's 400-year-old wood, so some of that I had to save, and I'm going to do something with it, and I'm not even sure what," Weprin said. "The bench outside, which doesn't exist yet, my fantasy bench outside, will be made out of that wood."
In fact, Hurricane Sandy may have destroyed most of the restaurant, but the historic fabric remains, like ceiling tiles from the 1810s, the original bar and the mirrors behind it.
"After that, everything in this room is going to be new," Weprin said. "You won't be able to notice. That's half the play on this. We want it to be the old Bridge Cafe, what it was."
A blackboard and the restaurant's website have kept the community informed about the cafe's progress. It now says that there's two months to go until opening.