In the heart of what has been a complacent, frustratingly placid community for ages, Jeff Capri is reviving the Park Bench at 1095 Route 25a, one of the few spots in the area that had once alleviated the Stony Brook University student’s desperate need for a practical escape from campus.
Capri—who at one point ran Dewey’s Flat Iron and Croton Reservoir Tavern, situated in Manhattan—hopes to expand the family-run business on Long Island. Once a bartender at the old Park Bench, he saw the local bar at its height; attracting residents and students with its dance floor, bar area, and outdoor barbeque.
When the bar’s past owner had stepped aside, other bars occupied the space left behind, virtually all of them eventually being cited for serving alcohol to underage drinkers. When asked about the building’s history of hosting those who served alcohol to patrons under 21 years of age, Capri immediately replied, “Can’t have it. It’s a $12,000 fine for the bar and for the bartender it’s $1,500 and a night in jail.” He added that he will have off duty cops in the bar to be on the lookout. Also on the management team are Peter Vafeas and Sean Chamberlain, who is a graduate of Stony Brook University
Though the bar is slated to open the week of Monday, October 6, the new Park Bench is still undergoing its finishing touches, which includes training the staff and installing a total of 22 television screens. Along with its massive number of television screens, the new Park Bench will offer pub food with what Capri calls a “New York City twist,” along with customized alcoholic beverages, such as Bench beer and Bench Chardonnays. The place boasts a comfortable and casual atmosphere in which one can sit back and have a good drink, but at the same time it hopes to project itself as a friendly and inviting place in order to attract patrons of all ages. “We love Stony Brook and we want to set up a good relationship with everyone,” Capri said. In an effort to reach out to the rest of the community, the Bench will have a shuttle service transporting people from the University Hospital to the bar (and eventually the main campus, he added) and back. He will arrange special events such as “Nurses’ Night,” which offers drink specials for hospital employees, and a plan is in place for the night of Halloween. The Bench will also serve as a venue for live music—and will host DJs, as well.
There is a lot of faith in future projects that the return of the Park Bench goes well. The Park Bench looks to be a cool, multi-faceted place that will not only provide a temporary escape for Stony Brookers seeking it, but a sense of home for those who are removed from it.