ROCKAWAY PARK — After nearly 100 years in the family, the owners of the peninsula’s oldest bar is set to sell it to a pair of brothers who hope to slowly improve it, without changing what the customers love.
The Rogers family opened Hotel Rogers in 1917, back when the Long Island Rail Road stopped at Beach 116th Street across the way, and long before the city thought about running the A train there.
Through the years, as the peninsula’s popularity as a summer resort waned, it kept Rogers Bar open, along with a few other stores in what had been the hotel and a restaurant.
But this summer they decided to sell to Mike and Jimmy McMahon, who run successful Irish bars around the city. A rumor of the sale was first reported by the Rockaway Times.
Owner Richie Rogers wouldn’t say why the family, including his brother and a sister, decided to sell. It’s personal, he said, and left it at that.
But the McMahon brothers, who both live on the peninsula, “made a proposal and we decided to accept it,” he said. The sale hasn't been finalized yet and he wouldn't say how much they sold it for.
“Whatever the McMahons do is first class,” Rogers said.
“I think Rockaway is very much on the up, and this will help. They’re the right guys at the right time.”
The McMahons have owned bars around the city, including McMahon’s Public House near the Barclays Center.
The property — which includes the bar, a Chinese food restaurant, a corner store, juice bar, fruit stand and more — is a chance to get in on something good happening in Rockaway, Mike McMahon said.
New restaurants and bars have popped up in recent years, boosted by hordes of beachgoers who have “discovered” what’s been a summer destination since Hotel Rogers was taking reservations.
“We believe it’s only a matter of time where Rockaway is going to break,” McMahon said.
But he’s not in it just for the business opportunity, he said.
“We want to restore what should be taken care of in Rockaway.”
A postcard shows the former Hotel Rogers. (Old Rockaway Photos)
When Hotel Rogers first opened, before air conditioning, Rockaway was “the Hamptons,” Rogers said.
“They called it ‘going to the seashore,’” he said.
The hotel upstairs had 25 rooms, a popular restaurant and the bar. The rooms remained mostly empty after the hotel closed in 1992, but Rogers Bar stayed open.
McMahon said it'll stay the same for a while, and he’ll keep the current crew — Brendan, Renee, Carol, Peter and John — behind the stick, pouring what some say is the best Guinness in the city.
“We’re not making any sudden changes,” McMahon said.
That’s a relief for the loyal customers of Rogers.
On a recent Monday afternoon, one bartender had to reassure a customer that she wasn't going anywhere.
It's a nice reassurance for Rogers, who has kept same bartenders for years.
“It’s something nice that they did,” Rogers said. “It’s up to him, obviously, but it’s very kind of him.”