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Craft Beer Bar Named for Sanitarium Opening in Long-Vacant Astoria Space

 The future River Crest logo, and the space where the bar will open next year.
The future River Crest logo, and the space where the bar will open next year.
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Logo Courtesy River Crest (inset); DNAinfo/Jeanmarie Evelly

ASTORIA — A pair of Lower East Side bar owners plan to open a craft beer spot named for a former sanitarium in a Ditmars Boulevard storefront that's sat empty for the past six years.

River Crest, named after a mental health facility that operated in the neighborhood decades ago, will open around February at 33-15 Ditmars Blvd., a large storefront formerly occupied by the produce market Top Tomato.

Co-owners Martin Whelan and Gerard Leary — who also own the Lower East Side bar One Mile House — say the new venture will specialize in quality and harder-to-find craft brews. 

"It'll be very high-end craft beer that we’ll be pouring there," said Leary, who lives in Sunnyside. "It's not going to be break-your-wallet kind of stuff, but very good."

The bar will also have a mixologist-crafted cocktail list and serve food like flat breads, appetizers and "lots of shareable plates," he noted. Though the menu concept is still being worked on, Leary said it will include a "big brunch."

"It'll be fun, it'll be lively," he added.

The new owners are renovating the storefront at the corner of 35th Street, which sits on the ground floor of an apartment building that's part of The Acropolis, a condo development that made headlines in 2015 for leaving some of its residential tenants without gas and hot water for months.

The storefront previously housed the fruit-and-vegetable store Top Tomato, which closed in 2009, followed by another produce purveyor called Astoria Farmer's Market, which shuttered in 2011. Since then, the space had sat empty and graffiti-covered, until construction scaffolding was recently erected. 

3315 DitmarsThe storefront had sat empty since 2011 and was covered in graffiti before construction scaffolding was recently put up. (DNAinfo/Jeanmarie Evelly)

When renovations are complete, Leary says River Crest will include the main bar area, a cocktail lounge space and a separate dining area.

They're excited to open in Astoria because residents appear engaged and really interested in checking out new neighborhood businesses, he said.

"I love that feeling," Leary said. "It actually feels like the community wants you there."