Connolly's is the Rockaway beach dive. In a neighborhood where bars are rare and those you'd be brave enough to venture into are almost nonexistent, here's no better a time to be found. It's cheap, maybe haunted, and relatively friendly! Also you won't get stabbed, which is always a Rockaway bar selling point.
Though the area is largely devoid of trend, Rockaway beach is fast becoming the hipster summer spot. Roberta's and Blue Bottle both have stands on the boardwalk, Rockaway Taco has a line wrapping around 89th and a bougie-disguised-as-hippie coffee shop attached. It's happening and will continue to do so. However, Connolly's isn't at all affected; it's only locals. The crowd pops on weekend afternoons and evenings—mostly bro-ish fire fighters, surfers, and other various blue collars. You wouldn't necessarily expect it, but everyone is super polite and cool and only concerned with having a good time on their days off.
Located in the basement of an old beach house, Connolly's is original. Original in the sense that there's not a lot like it, and original in that its look and vibe seems to have evolved organically through decades of good times. There is a sunken patio off the sidewalk with built-in benches and older people smoking; it usually has a couple seats open. Through the red door the large dark wood bar stretches down the left side of the room. Columns scatter about, and there's plenty of room to mill around in. Booths are to the right, just before the pinball games and dart alleys. The walls are plastered with pictures of local girls in bikinis at the bar (maybe from some sort of annual contest) and years of their Halloween costume contests. One time I was examining them and an old guy pointed out to me that in a few there was a smeared ghost-like face in their backgrounds. The local rumor is the bar is haunted because the house next to it burned down, trapping a family of a women and her three children inside (the overgrown, empty lot still remains). The father came home from work and saw their charred and skeletal remains and vowed never to build another house on the lot, so it's still empty. Having nowhere to go their ghosts moved next door. True? Probably not. Cool, yes!
All this aside, the very best thing about Connolly's is their piña colada. They, as well as the equally good strawberry daiquiris, are served in Styrofoam cups so you can sneak them on the beach. At $5 a cup—$6 with a rum floater (an extra shot on top that's usually "on the house")—you just can't beat it. And be careful: they sneak up on you and shit gets hectic real quick. I don't know any other drink prices because the coladas are so great, but I do know it's very cheap. Also be sure to bring cash. They're cash only and the nearest ATM is at a sketchy bodega three or four blocks away.
Go to Connolly's. It's the best beach bar. Go before the beach, go after the beach, whenever. Bring friends or make them, but go before summer passes and their shutters close until May.