May 18, 2021 By Christina Santucci
The Bohemian Hall & Beer Garden in Astoria will open its doors Wednesday – after being closed for several months.
“We are actually doing a soft opening tomorrow. By this weekend we should be full force,” Daniel Finger, the hall’s new general manager, said Tuesday.
The popular beer garden, located at 29-19 24th Ave., will be open Wednesdays through Fridays from 5 p.m. until midnight and on Saturdays and Sundays from noon until midnight.
Finger explained that some of the amenities – such as cable on the garden’s TVs – would likely take several days to set up, but patrons would be able to purchase food and drinks during the soft opening.
“At this point we are really focused on the reopening and getting the community back in here,” he said.
The Bohemian Hall & Beer Garden, which is the oldest in New York City, is owned and managed by the Bohemian Citizens’ Benevolent Society of Astoria, a group that promotes Czech and Slovak culture. The cornerstone of the building was laid in 1910.
Finger – who has previously worked at the West Side Tennis Club in Forest Hills as well as Pershing Square and Monarch Rooftop in Manhattan – said the garden has also hired a new chef, Johnny Alvarenga.
Initially, the beer garden’s menu will feature items from years past – but new dishes may be added after the first month.
“As we get closer to the winter season, we plan on offering a full menu,” he said. “We want to be known for our food.”
The beer garden will be initially operating under the State Administrative Procedure Act (SAPA), which allows businesses to operate under an expired license until the State Liquor Authority (SLA) issues a new license. But Finger said he expects the garden to receive its renewal soon.
The beer garden’s liquor license had been suspended for several weeks in August by the SLA after investigators found “twenty patrons standing and drinking in the establishment’s outdoor area, ignoring social distancing guidelines without facial coverings.”
During their September 2 meeting, SLA members voted to accept the beer garden’s conditional no-contest offer of $20,000 and asked that the establishment adjust its SLA records to indicate they have security guards – in order to reopen. A spokesperson for the SLA said the civil penalty was paid the next day.
The garden later closed for several months over the winter.
Finger said the beer garden will employ a number of measures to ensure the safety of patrons and that tables will be spaced so that visitors are socially distanced from one another.
“We are making sure that we follow every restriction that is given to us, to keep everything in order,” he said.
The garden’s maximum occupancy is 860 people, and the space will be capped at 75 percent capacity.
“It will look a lot more full, without being too full,” he said.
Patrons will also be asked to try to stay seated and wear masks to help prevent the spread of the COVID-19 virus.
“We prefer everyone sitting down because it’s easier to make sure everyone is safe,” Finger said.
Over the past few months, Astoria residents had frequently posted questions on neighborhood social media groups about the beer garden’s reopening – with many wondering when the massive establishment would welcome back patrons.
“I wanted to make sure everything was done properly and safely, so it did take a little bit of extra time. But I think it’s going to be worth it,” Finger said, explaining the delay.