SEA BRIGHT: DONOVAN’S TO REBUILD

donovan's 2 110312Donovan’s Reef as seen five days after Hurricane Sandy, above, and in better days, below. (Photo above by John T. Ward. Click to enlarge)

By JOHN T. WARD

Donovan's 10-07 2Smashed to splinters by Hurricane Sandy, Sea Bright’s venerated beachfront bar, Donovan’s Reef, will make it’s return this summer, an  owner tells redbankgreen.

The comeback, approved earlier this week by the borough planning board in a unanimous 8-0 vote, could begin with an the opening of tiki bar as soon as May 15, said Bob Phillips, who co-owns the business with two partners.

“Their mentality is, ‘We need you more than you need us,'” Phillips said of the board’s members.

Donovan's 022714The bar’s demise as a result of Hurricane Sandy appeared to mark the end of a four-decade run for the watering hole and entertainment venue, which has seen the likes of Bruce Springsteen and Bon Jovi rocking out. One investment group swept in with an offer of $4.5 million for the property and liquor license within a month of the storm.

But Phillips said a continuing clamor for the bar’s return by its wide range of clientele – which he said includes everyone from “toothless rednecks to aristocrats” – compelled him to rebuild.

Shortly after the storm, Mayor Dina Long held up the “DO” portion of Donovan’s sign for a packed grandstand of Rumson to rally the town’s residents for the challenge of rebuilding.

Phillips said the property, at 11.5 feet above sea level, is the highest point along the Sea Bright beachfront. The new one-story bar building, which he hopes will be completed as early as August, will top out at 36 feet, and feature 36 stools around a horseshoe bar, bigger than in the old place.

Meantime, he’s hoping to have an open-air bar up and running by May 15.

“If we get in by July Fourth, that’s 10 weeks of summer, and I’ll be a happy boy,” said Phillips, who’s in his late 70s.  “But I’m more looking forward to next year.”

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