SOUTH STREET SEAPORT — It took nearly a year — and $1 million — to repair the Paris Café, but owner Peter O’Connell said he knows bringing the Hurricane Sandy-devastated restaurant back to life was well worth it.
“We’ve had real, strong support from the community,” said O’Connell, 65. “We’ve been busy so far, and we’re grateful.”
O’Connell reopened the expansive, historic café last Thursday, almost a year since the South Street Seaport favorite was inundated by more than 11 feet of floodwaters during Hurricane Sandy, completely destroying the interior.
“It’s certainly cost us, but I think the Paris looks better than ever,” said O’Connell, who also owns The Open Door Gastro Pub on John Street, Molly’s Irish Pub on Third Avenue at East 23rd Street and the neighboring Blue Bell Café — each of which suffered thousands of dollars in hurricane damage.
The damage at the Paris was by far the worst. O'Connell had to replace nearly everything: the electrical systems, the kitchen equipment and the mold-infested interior, he said.
After a complete revamp, the 119 South St. spot has a sleeker, more modern look, with navy leather booths and marble countertops. O'Connell also moved the bar from the back of the space to a spot closer to the door, which is where it was when the Paris first opened in 1873.
“It gives us more space, actually,” said O’Connell, who has owned the Paris since 2000.
O'Connell expects it will take five years to make back the $1 million he spent repairing the Paris, but on Monday afternoon, surrounded by a group of regulars, he said he hoped it would pay off.
Among the locals grabbing lunch were Jeanine Michele and her husband Michael, both thrilled to be back in their beloved Seaport bar.
"We've been here every day since it reopened," Michele said. "We're really glad to have the Paris — and Peter — back. The Seaport finally feels like it's getting back to normal now."