From left, Mets World Series champs Art Shamsky, Dwight Gooden and Village Idiot Pub...

From left, Mets World Series champs Art Shamsky, Dwight Gooden and Village Idiot Pub chain owner John Sarno at a ribbon cutting at Suffolk OTB's Racing Forum on Tuesday. Credit: Tom Lambui

Suffolk OTB's Racing Forum will open a new sports pub Wednesday to replace a cafe that closed earlier this year at the Hauppauge betting parlor, which will remain open for wagering on horse racing, officials said Monday.

The bar, VIP at OTB, will be the fifth location of the popular Village Idiot Pub chain founded in 2010 in Patchogue by former physical education teacher John Sarno.

Sarno said he signed a three-year lease to operate in a roughly 2,500-square-foot section of the Forum. He said he opened the chain's fourth location several weeks ago at Indian Island Country Club in Riverhead.

Suffolk Regional Off-Track Betting Corp. president Phil Boyle said OTB officials sought a new food and drink vendor for the Forum after the space was vacated earlier this year by BRockEnzO bar-restaurant, which specialized in brick-oven pizza, burgers, soups and more. Boyle did not identify a reason for the bar closing.

Boyle said OTB officials were confident the new pub would help draw customers to the parlor, which features horse racing simulcasts and betting.

"Village Idiot Pub is well-known on Long Island,” he said, “Obviously, these guys are well established with casual dining, but you can [also] watch sports.”

The Forum opened in 2001 and survived Suffolk OTB's financial woes that persisted until OTB opened Jake's 58 Casino Hotel in Islandia in 2017. Jake's helped OTB escape bankruptcy.

The Forum, which attracted about 20,000 patrons and brought in $4 million in revenue last year, is Suffolk OTB's second-largest revenue generator behind Jake's 58, Boyle said.

About 40% of revenue, or $1.6 million, was contributed to the horse racing industry, Boyle said, adding another $286,000 went to a state public education fund. The remaining $2.1 million paid for maintenance and upkeep, he said.

VIP will pay $775,000 in rent in the first year and $18,000 in the second year plus 7% of gross revenue above $100,000, Boyle said.

Sarno said he installed new flooring, gave the space a fresh paint job, added lighting and 10 new televisions.

“We added staff at the place to make it look like a local neighborhood bar and not so much like a café,” he said.

The bar includes 15 stools, dining for up to 50 people and a grab-and-go menu featuring sandwiches, wraps, burgers and appetizers, Sarno said, adding that for now he plans to “keep it simple and not go crazy with inventory at the beginning.”

A celebratory news conference Tuesday drew former Mets World Series champs Art Shamsky and Dwight Gooden, both of whom pledged to patronize the pub and meet with fans.

“I live on Long Island, maybe 20 minutes away," said Gooden, the former Cy Young Award winner who starred for the 1986 championship team. "I think it’s great, good place to hang out. It’s comfortable in the summer.”

Shamsky, an outfielder with the 1969 World Series winners, said, “It’s always great for me to be around people that want to talk baseball and 1969.”

With Benjamin Dickson

Suffolk OTB's Racing Forum will open a new sports pub Wednesday to replace a cafe that closed earlier this year at the Hauppauge betting parlor, which will remain open for wagering on horse racing, officials said Monday.

The bar, VIP at OTB, will be the fifth location of the popular Village Idiot Pub chain founded in 2010 in Patchogue by former physical education teacher John Sarno.

Sarno said he signed a three-year lease to operate in a roughly 2,500-square-foot section of the Forum. He said he opened the chain's fourth location several weeks ago at Indian Island Country Club in Riverhead.

Suffolk Regional Off-Track Betting Corp. president Phil Boyle said OTB officials sought a new food and drink vendor for the Forum after the space was vacated earlier this year by BRockEnzO bar-restaurant, which specialized in brick-oven pizza, burgers, soups and more. Boyle did not identify a reason for the bar closing.

Boyle said OTB officials were confident the new pub would help draw customers to the parlor, which features horse racing simulcasts and betting.

"Village Idiot Pub is well-known on Long Island,” he said, “Obviously, these guys are well established with casual dining, but you can [also] watch sports.”

The Forum opened in 2001 and survived Suffolk OTB's financial woes that persisted until OTB opened Jake's 58 Casino Hotel in Islandia in 2017. Jake's helped OTB escape bankruptcy.

The Forum, which attracted about 20,000 patrons and brought in $4 million in revenue last year, is Suffolk OTB's second-largest revenue generator behind Jake's 58, Boyle said.

About 40% of revenue, or $1.6 million, was contributed to the horse racing industry, Boyle said, adding another $286,000 went to a state public education fund. The remaining $2.1 million paid for maintenance and upkeep, he said.

VIP will pay $775,000 in rent in the first year and $18,000 in the second year plus 7% of gross revenue above $100,000, Boyle said.

Sarno said he installed new flooring, gave the space a fresh paint job, added lighting and 10 new televisions.

“We added staff at the place to make it look like a local neighborhood bar and not so much like a café,” he said.

The bar includes 15 stools, dining for up to 50 people and a grab-and-go menu featuring sandwiches, wraps, burgers and appetizers, Sarno said, adding that for now he plans to “keep it simple and not go crazy with inventory at the beginning.”

A celebratory news conference Tuesday drew former Mets World Series champs Art Shamsky and Dwight Gooden, both of whom pledged to patronize the pub and meet with fans.

“I live on Long Island, maybe 20 minutes away," said Gooden, the former Cy Young Award winner who starred for the 1986 championship team. "I think it’s great, good place to hang out. It’s comfortable in the summer.”

Shamsky, an outfielder with the 1969 World Series winners, said, “It’s always great for me to be around people that want to talk baseball and 1969.”

With Benjamin Dickson

NewsdayTV's Elisa DiStefano and Newsday food writer Marie Elena Martinez take a look at the hottest places to dine on Long Island this summer.  Credit: Randee Daddona; Newsday / A.J. Singh

A taste of summer on Long Island NewsdayTV's Elisa DiStefano and Newsday food writer Marie Elena Martinez take a look at the hottest places to dine on Long Island this summer. 

NewsdayTV's Elisa DiStefano and Newsday food writer Marie Elena Martinez take a look at the hottest places to dine on Long Island this summer.  Credit: Randee Daddona; Newsday / A.J. Singh

A taste of summer on Long Island NewsdayTV's Elisa DiStefano and Newsday food writer Marie Elena Martinez take a look at the hottest places to dine on Long Island this summer. 

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