Donovans_1007_2Is it the end of the line for the last beachfront bar in New Jersey?


The owners of Donovan’s Reef in Sea Bright have signed a contract to sell the oceanfront nightclub for $5 million, redbankgreen has learned.

Chris Bowler and Bob Phillips, two of the bar’s three principals, said the buyer is Stone Enterprises, a Toms River developer with properties in Ocean County and north Jersey.

The proposed sale means that another slice of prime oceanfront property may become inaccessible to the public, and a popular Jersey shore hangout will likely be demolished to make way for housing. Bowler and Phillips said the buyer told them it would seek to build a mixed use condominium project at the site.

“It will be interesting to see what the town allows,” Bowler said.

The sellers said the deal was one of necessity.

“It was time to move on,” said Phillips, reached at his home in Avon. “I turned 71 yesterday.”

“I’m not happy about this, but I can’t hold my partners back,” said Bowler, reached at Brannigan’s Bar & Grill in Red Bank, which he co-owns with Phillips and Bob Carducci, of Holmdel, another Donovan’s principal.

Bowler, 41, said he would have kept the property if he had been able to find “hands-on investors” to buy out the other owners, but couldn’t, and was unable to take it on himself. Bowler’s father recently passed away, soon after which the property was put up for sale.

The decision to sell was reinforced in recent days as the bar, which often throbs with activity on summer weekends, settled into a mid-autumn nap.

“It was a beautiful weekend, but only two people were there” at one point when he was there, Bowler said. “Sea Bright doesn’t survive the winter.”

Stone Enterprises will have to go before the town for variances and other approvals, Bowler said, before the property can change hands, a process that will take at least “a year and a half. It’s not a done deal.”

redbankgreen was unable to reach Stone Enterprises for comment.

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