By Kami-Leigh Agard
In 1991, Congress recognized March as Irish American Heritage Month, and since then, beginning with President H.W. Bush, it has been a bipartisan declaration by every president, celebrating the achievements and contributions of Irish Americans nationwide. In this month-long series, The Rockaway Times salutes our local Irish Americans, expanding on the conversation around what it means to be Irish American. Beyond wearing green and watching the annual St. Patrick’s Day parade, these individuals all exude, not just their passion to preserve Rockaway’s rich legacy as NYC’s premier Irish Riviera—but pass it on to the next generation. In this week’s installation, meet Sean Sheridan, Breezy Point resident and owner of The BayHouse.
Sean Sheridan is a second-generation Irish American. Both of his parents hail from County Cavan, and like many Irish-Americans immigrating to NYC in the ‘50s and ‘60s, planted their roots in Brooklyn. Interestingly, the name, “Sheridan,” an anglicized version of the Irish O’Sirideáin (or Ó Sirideáin), originating in County Longford (nearby County Cavan), means descendant of Sheridan (“the searcher”). Hence, no coincidence that the Sheridans’ search for a different life on the other side of the pond, led their son to not just discover, but plant roots in ocean/bay-side Irish enclave, Breezy Point.
According to Sheridan, he and his parents first started visiting Rockaway during the 1960s and ‘70s. He shared, “Every year, we used to visit Ireland on a regular basis during the month of July, and in August, we rented two bedrooms in a house on Beach 92nd Street. Back then, this was the old Irish town with a lot of Irish families coming to Rockaway for vacation, renting rooms near the shore. In the evening, everyone would go up to the boardwalk, someone would bring an accordion, and there’d be Irish-step dancing, just having a fun time, watching the fireworks.”
As for how Sheridan ended up planting roots in Breezy Point, it began with a summer job at the Breezy Point Cooperative, which left the Breezy sand between his toes.
“I was studying business administration and management at St. Francis College, and I got an opportunity to work a summer job at the Breezy Point Cooperative. After graduation, I worked on Wall Street for 30 years. Then I retired, rented a sailboat and spent some time in the Caribbean. I was thinking about going back to Wall Street, but I found out that the business, where The BayHouse is now located, was up for sale. So, being a typical red-blooded Irish American, I wanted to own a bar. So, I got the property and opened The BayHouse in 2002. Wow, that was exactly 21 years ago,” Sheridan shared.
The BayHouse, with neighboring Kennedy’s, The Sugar Bowl and Blarney Castle, enjoyed a great run serving restaurant-goers looking for Breezy-good food, drinks and beach/bay vibes. Then in October 2012, the Frankenstorm of all storms hit—Hurricane Sandy—and according to Sheridan, the property was completely annihilated. However, like many businesses and residents on the peninsula, The BayHouse came back Breezy strong.
“Like everyone else, we had to rebuild. For the first two summers while waiting for permits and other things to come through, we operated out of a 40 ft. by 100 ft. tent. It was seasonal, March through October, and the community supported us,” Sheridan said.
Then finally in 2017, The BayHouse re-opened in a new state-of-the-art building, hoisted 10 feet up from ground level; gifting patrons stunning views of the bay, plus adding some sustainability in case of future storms.
When asked about how he views Rockaway’s transformation from the old Irish town to now, Sheridan was optimistic.
“With increased interest from people throughout NYC and beyond to enjoy the beauty of Rockaway’s beaches, especially with the added ferry service, it’s good for the community. And as for our Irish presence, there’s an incredible presence of Irish families, both in Breezy and the Rockaways, still here after 50, 60 years.”
What’s even more endearing about Sheridan is his steadfast dedication to pass on his pride in the Sheridan family’s Irish roots and culture to the next generation, namely his sons, nine-year-old Sean Andrew and six-year-old John.
For example, he shared that last year for the first time, he took his sons to visit Ireland for Thanksgiving.
He laughed while sharing, “Andrew didn’t wanna leave Ireland. He talks about it all the time. He says, ‘We should buy a home over there.’ He loved it because we spent time on the coast in Dublin’s Blackrock area. Plus, we spent time with family in County Cavan. My dad is buried in Ireland, and most of my family still lives there. It’s really beautiful, and my sons and wife, Maureen, feel at home.”
Sheridan recalled a funny anecdote about his sons and a stampede of sheep. “I was having breakfast with a cousin, sitting on the front deck overlooking the farm area, and all of a sudden, we see 50 sheep running for their lives! Two seconds later, we see my two boys chasing them and, I hear them yelling, ‘This is great!’ And my cousin gets up, protesting, ‘They’re gonna kill the sheep!’ He thought the sheep were going to have a heart attack because they were running so fast,” he said.
So yes, like Sean Sheridan and many Irish Americans living on the peninsula, Broad Channel and throughout the country—March is not just about donning green—but celebrating Irish roots, and the impact Irish Americans continue to make in their communities, large and small. Plus, making sure to keep the culture alive with the next generation.
The BayHouse is located at 500 Bayside Drive, Breezy Point. Opening hours are Thursday through Sunday for lunch and dinner, 12 p.m. to 11 p.m., (closing at 12 a.m. on Friday and Saturday). For reservations and more info, call: (347) 926-4926, visit: www.bayhousebreezypoint.com/ or follow on Instagram at @bayhousebreezypoint