Fire Island Pines' Sip n' Twirl reopens

Contractors work around the clock on the LaFountaine

Contractors work around the clock on the LaFountaine building to get it ready to re-open for tomorrow's Fourth of July celebrations. (July 3, 2012) (Credit: Newsday/Alejandra Villa)

When fire destroyed renowned Fire Island Pines gay clubs the Pavilion and the neighboring Sip n' Twirl in November, the life of the beach community took some heat, too.

The two venues formed the heart of the Pines' small commercial district, which has fewer than 10 businesses, said P.J. McAteer, owner of Sip n' Twirl.

The fire, which the Suffolk fire marshal deemed accidental, gutted both the Pavilion and the LaFountaine -- which housed the Sip n' Twirl.

Now, Fire Island Pines can sip and twirl once again.

With crews working around the clock since breaking ground in March, the club's doors are scheduled to open Wednesday for a party for friends and family. Thursday, popular DJ Lina is scheduled to play a set to welcome the public back to the club. "The community cannot wait for us," McAteer said.

"This really is part of the community," said Nicole LaFountaine, whose family has owned the building for three generations. The decision to rebuild in time for the summer season was an emotional move. "We said, 'Let's get the ball rolling and show the community things are back to normal,' " she said.

The Pavilion should be rebuilt by next spring, according to owner FIP Ventures.

LaFountaine said her dedicated team worked nonstop for four months to rebuild the two-story structure, which was first erected in 1979.

Sip n' Twirl is the first space to reopen, with the rest of the mixed-use building slated to open later this summer. McAteer's two other businesses in the building -- a pizzeria and a bistro -- are scheduled to open within weeks, he said.

The other tenants -- including two realty offices, a clothing store and a home care office -- are expected to return as well. The renovated building's improvements include twice as many bathrooms in Sip n' Twirl; and it was fully brought up to code, LaFountaine said.

McAteer said he arrived by ferry Monday with his newly acquired liquor license, and crews continued hammering and sawing.

He and LaFountaine breathed sighs of relief. "We're done," LaFountaine said. "It's just excitement, to be able to say, 'Oh my God, we're back.' "

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