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Sunny's Bar Celebrates its Long-Awaited Reopening

 Sunny's Bar reopened on Aug. 29 with a grand ceremony. The bar closed for 10 months after Hurricane Sandy damaged the Conover Street tavern.
Sunny's Bar
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RED HOOK — Sunny’s is back.

The legendary Conover Street tavern opened for business Thursday night, after nearly a year of recovering from Hurricane Sandy.

Well-wishers from near and far gathered in front of Sunny’s Bar to watch the beloved pub celebrate its “rebirthday” with music, drinks and red velvet cake.

“It’s 10 months now,” said Sunny Balzano, the bar’s owner, at the grand opening ceremony. “A little longer than it takes a baby to be made.”

The superstorm flooded the bar and left it with structural and electrical damage, which cost more than $100,000 to repair, according to The Brooklyn Paper.

Balzano thanked people in the crowd for their support, many of whom helped to save the struggling bar.

“It’s what all of you have done and I thank you for it,” said Balzano, who celebrated his 78th birthday Thursday.

A few minutes past 8 p.m., the bar finally opened its doors.

“It’s tempting to say that it’s a miracle,” said Tone Johansen, Balzano’s wife and bar co-owner. “The only weapon that we had in our arsenal was love.”

Artist Karni Dorell has been coming to Sunny’s for 23 years — as long as she has lived in the neighborhood.

The bar is one of the final businesses to reopen after Sandy, she said.

“I can’t believe it’s been all this time,” said Dorell, as she watched revelers traipse in and out of the bar’s long-awaited open door.

Her gaze shifted to Johansen, who was singing at a makeshift outdoor stage on Conover Street.

“She’s the one who got down and dirty,” said Dorell, referring to the extensive renovations that Sunny’s required after the storm. “She had to really pull it together.”

The bar’s owners spent months raising money through online and offline initiatives, including a Kickstarter campaign and a benefit party to help them recover from the storm.

“To see them back on their feet is heart-warming and inspiring,” said Niva Dorell Smith, who lives in Los Angeles and always makes a trip to Sunny’s when she visits her sister, Karni Dorell, in Red Hook, she said.

Cheryl Steward, a sculptor and scenic artist, said the bar is a community center, even for teetotalers like herself and several of her friends.

“Everybody comes to Sunny’s,” said Steward, who, like many locals who stood among the crowd, had seen flooding in her own home.

“For community, it’s a really important center.”

Sunny’s Bar will continue their grand opening festivities with music by “The Xylophone People,” Aug. 30 and “Bluegrass Jam” on Aug. 31.