By TOM CHESEK
He’s the man who explains, as he tickles the ivories in a cable commercial for the Rum Runner, his Sea Bright restaurant, that “it’s all about the music.”
But he’s also the guy who, while overseeing the myriad details of his latest restaurant opening, tells redbankgreen that “it’s a dangerous thing, predicating any business on entertainment alone.”
Somewhere in there, apparently, is a happy medium. And Little Silver’s Tim McLoone clearly believes he’s found it, yet again, as he dials up both his culinary and entertainment ambitions with the recent launch of Tim McLoone’s Supper Club in Asbury Park, his third new dining room in as many years.
But while he continues to build out what is increasingly looking like a restaurant empire, McLoone the entertainer still seems to let pass no opportunity get all musical in front of a live audience himself. In fact, the impresario/keyboardist/vocalist once pegged by the New York Times as “the voice of New Jersey” in part for his work with the widely known feel-good Holiday Express band, is booked tonight through Friday with his ‘summer’ band, The Shirleys. (See details below).
Doo Wop by Design: McLoone’s Supper Club has opened on the upper level of the fabuluxe HoJo’s building on the Asbury Park boardwalk.
The Supper Club occupies the upper floor of what’s surely the coolest piece of Jersey Shore architecture north of Lucy the Elephant; the Jetsons-style former home of the boardwalk Howard Johnson’s. (McLoone’s Salt Water Beach Cafe, which opened up last year, retains its ground-floor space.)
The space has been completely reimagined as an elegant roundhouse of panoramic vistas, cushy semi-circular booths and a bandstand that looks to be the center of attention with accents everywhere of a teal-ish hue that a staffer helpfully identified as “a kind of steel ice blue.”
Best of all, the concrete ramp and deck that winds up and around this rare Monmouth County example of “Doo Wop” design a walkway that in recent years had served primarily as shelter for the boardwalk’s feral cats is once again open for traffic and used as one of two access points for the club.
It’s a venue in which “we’re looking to book some pretty serious entertainment… it’s not a rock and roll room,” says McLoone. “My goal is to get every musician I’ve ever known to come here and see this place, and my hope is that the performers bring their ‘A’ game, because the room demands it.”
Maintaining that “our biggest weapon is our show,” boss McLoone has mapped out a summer schedule that includes a full five nights of music, with Wednesday-through-Sunday operations kicking in for keeps tonight, with the BethAnne Clayton Band inaugurating what McLoone plans as a “Roots Americana” night of soul, blues or country sounds. Thursdays are Cabaret nights, with pianist Bob Egan holding down a slot that will also include shows by the likes of Don Dazzo’s Everlounge and nationally known stand-up comic Judy Gold.
McLoone himself took the stage for the June 25 grand opening, performing with The Shirleys, that first Sunday as well. He’ll be back most weekend nights with what he calls the “Expanded American Songbook,” occasionally ceding the stage to such acts as New York chanteuse Liz Callaway and musical tribute artists The Mahoney Brothers. Bobby Bandiera, currently touring with Bon Jovi, will initiate a string of solo and McLoone-combo appearances upon his return Shoreside in August. Then on Sundays beginning this week, the Jazz Lobsters bring their bib-band bombast to the Supper Club stage, starting at 6p.
McLoone and company believe they’ve also brought their ‘A’ game to the kitchen, as intriguingly named chef Andrew Gruel sets the pace for a menu that operates according to a “local and organic” concept.
“He’s taking it to a different level than anyone else,” says McLoone of the 28-year-old Gruel. “He was in the fields picking strawberries the other day; we had strawberry salad that night.”
The Supper Club bolsters a portfolio of eateries that includes the trailblazing McLoone’s Pier House in Long Branch and the recently opened McLoone’s at Favorites offtrack wagering parlor in Woodbridge, an installation that McLoone whose dad, Joe, ran Freehold Raceway for many years regards as “rewriting how the OTB, OTW experience is done. We’re taking a casino sort of approach, and we’ve had steady business from day one.”
And yet neither the high profile entertainment nor the thrill of racing action could ultimately compete with the show that’s been going on in recent days behind the original Rum Runner, where a visiting group of bottlenose dolphins has been attracting camera-toting onlookers and deckside diners for more than two weeks.
“The dolphins are coming out a couple of times each day,” says a delighted McLoone. “We’re looking into getting Shamu for next year.”
The vocal Shirleys mother and daughter team Delores and Layonne Holmes, plus Maureen McCrink and Amy Broza appear with McLoone and his ten-piece Atlantic Coast Band in no fewer than three shows in the coming days, beginning with the first of two 2008 concerts at Sandy Hook’s Beach Area E, tonight 6p.
Friday evening, they’ll be on the beach in Sea Bright as the borough celebrates Independence Day with its annual fireworks display.
And in between, they’ll be working a little event called KaBoom! Fireworks on the Navesink, where they’ll perform a 7:15 set at one of the finest pyrotechnic-ogling points in town: Red Bank’s Riverside Gardens Park.