A collective groan was heard through downtown Red Bank earlier this month went a court-appointed official abruptly shut down Ashes Cigar Bar, a high-profile if controversial eatery and bar that served as a nightlife anchor for more than a decade.
Just what we need when the retail and restaurant sectors are struggling to claw back to profitability, store owners said: a honking big vacancy in a town with plenty of small and medium-sized ones. How will the building’s owner find a tenant to replace Ashes in this economy?
Well, landlord Jack Anderson doesn’t think the outlook is dire. He says he’s already got offers for the three-story building on his desk across the street at Jacks Music Shoppe, and he’s “motivated” to get a deal done ASAP.
“I have proposals from five or six people who are serious players,” he tells redbankgreen. One, he says coyly, is from “a well-known personality everybody in the country knows him.” Another is from a major steakhouse, and yet another is from a restaurant chain he’s been doing a slow dance with for several years.
He’s also “motivated” to close a deal with the right tenant, he says.
“I can’t afford to let it stay that way,” says Anderson. “I want to sign a deal as fast as possible with somebody who’s totally financially responsible, isn’t a felon and can get a [liquor] license, and can run a restaurant.”
Court records indicate that Anderson is owed more than $230,000 in back rent from the last tenant, a sum that is expected to be paid when the Ashes liquor license is eventually sold by court-appointed receiver Bunce Atkinson. Legal complications over that license prompted Atkinson to close the business July 7, as detailed by redbankgreen last week.
Anderson’s ace, though, is that he also owns a liquor license, one formerly held by Dieter Bornemann of the now-shuttered Little Kraut/Oakbridge Tavern/Red Bank Beer Garden. Anderson says he bought the license earlier this year “just in case.”
It remains to be seen, however, if the last operators of the club in receivership, Charlie Mayo and Jimmy Vastardis, will re-enter the picture. The state Alcoholic Beverage Control agency blocked their proposed purchase of the Ashes license because of a purported relationship to the nominal owners of the license, who are accused of concealing the true identities of stakeholders in the license, including one with a felony record.
But Mayo and Vastardis, who owns Blue Water Seafood restaurant in East Brunswick and hoped to transform Ashes into a seafood place called Blue 33, are free to buy his license, Anderson says. A deal for such a transaction fell apart in recent weeks, but Anderson says a lawyer for the pair contacted his attorney after the shutdown to ask, “Are we still talking?”
With all the interest in the building, Anderson says, “it won’t stay empty long, believe me.”