SEA BRIGHT: RUM RUNNER RESURRECTED

rum runner 050316 2The bar in a glass-walled room one patron called “the aquarium” offers panoramic views of the Shrewsbury River. Below right, restaurant principal Tim McLoone with an opening-night guest. (Photo by John T. Ward. Click to enlarge)

By JOHN T. WARD

tim mcloone 050316Three and a half years after the original was damaged beyond repair by Hurricane Sandy, McLoone’s Rum Runner reopened Tuesday night in the form of dazzling behemoth of a “jewel box” beside the Shrewsbury River in Sea Bright.

Above the river, actually. Unlike its modest predecessor, which sat barely above high-tide, the new one is elevated to keep all but the lowest part of a stairwell dry even during the worst storm surge, and provide parking underneath at other times, said its designers.

rum runner 050316The Rum Runner as seen from Ocean Avenue; the second-story dining room and bar at left will be open-air in good weather. Below, the former restaurant shortly after Hurricane Sandy. (Photo by John T. Ward. Click to enlarge)

sb mcloone's 110512Champagne flutes in hand, dozens of invited guests explored the multi-tiered structure, which features soaring interior spaces and views of the river from every inch of its length.

“I call this the aquarium,” one guest said, as he led friends through a glass door into a second-story dining area and bar. The space, at the south end of the building, terminates in a window-filled cupola and is enclosed by glass doors that, in nice weather, will be open to the river and sea breezes, said architect Jay Anderson, of the Rumson firm Anderson Campanella.

“The guidance was to make it long and thin along the water” so that every seat had a view, said Anderson, who designed the building with his wife and partner, Felicia Campanella, and colleague Kevin Steinhauser.

McLoone said he awarded the commission during an offhand conversation at a Rumson-Fair Haven track meet, where McLoone was coaching Anderson and Campanella’s daughters.

McLoone told redbankgreen his only direction to the architects was “A., I wanted it to look like it’s always been here, and B. for people driving down Ocean Avenue to see a jewel box, but one that looks friendly.”

A self-described “worrier,” McLoone said he was concerned that the height of the building made it appear to be a “behemoth,” but if not for the elevation to protect against flooding, it would be comparable in height to its predecessor, which he’d owned since 1987.

The new restaurant actually represents shrinkage by two metrics, said Tim McMahon, president of McLoone’s Restaurants: it’s 2,000 square feet smaller in floor area, and has a seating capacity of 297, down from 450.

But the old version “had six tables that we juggled all night long” because everyone wanted to sit at them, McMahon said, whereas in the new Rum Runner “there isn’t a bad seat in the house.”

Interior designer Jana Manning, who also outfitted of Toast in Red Bank, said she chose the subdued hues of the two bars and dining rooms to create “a serene, calming setting in which  the river is the star of the show.”

The staircases feature four-inch thick slabs of wood repurposed from a Civil War-era building as steps, said Steinhauser.

“It feels like home,” said former Shrewsbury Mayor Terel Cooperhouse.

The restaurant is the eleventh in McLoone’s empire, which includes nine others in New Jersey — including Robinson Ale House in Red Bank and CJ McLoone’s in Tinton Falls — and one in Maryland.

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