The Mad Hatter in better days, above. The owners plan to revive the tiki bar out back next week. (Photo by Wil Fulton. Click to enlarge)


The people who run the Mad Hatter – a sports bar/restaurant that’s practically synonymous with downtown Sea Bright – knew they had to do something to get open.

With the borough’s first post-Sandy summer quickly approaching and their oceanside establishment still unusable, they knew that they couldn’t risk going an entire season without opening their doors for loyal locals and Shore visitors.

So they decided to improvise. Twice.

Now, after a stalled attempt to reopen under a tent on the municipal parking lot, owner Scott Kelly and his brother Michael have a plan they say will allow the Mad Hatter to come back in time for Memorial Day.

“What we’ve done is effectively turned the back of the building into the front, in a way,” Michael Kelly, the manager, told redbankgreen,

The Kellys’ strategy is to turn the the back room of the restaurant – which suffered the least amount of damage during the storm, though it’s nearest to the Atlantic Ocean – and the tiki bar that sits on the back porch into the focal part of the temporary restaurant, redesigning the backroom to include another full bar and bathroom facilities.

“We wanted to be back in Sea Bright  – we knew we had to be  – so we put our heads together and this kind of came out of it. Now, we’re working to get it done by Memorial Day.”

Noting the heavy construction going on all around, he added, “As you can see we’re basically trying to build a whole restaurant in a couple weeks, so needless to say, we have to hustle.”

The reincarnated Mad Hatter, expected to open May 23, will function as a temporary replacement, as the main building will undergo full repairs when the temporary “summer shack,” Kelly called it, closes after Labor Day.

In addition to the two fully stocked bars, Kelly said there would be mobile concession stands ready to serve burgers, wings, and of course, the Hatter’s specialty: thin-crust pizzas.

“We’ll be somewhat limited as far as food goes, but we’ll have all our staples,” he said.

Several construction workers on-site mentioned that people come by every day, knocking on the door, asking if the Hatter is open yet.

“We can’t wait to be back, and contribute what we do to Sea Bright,” Kelly said. “The more businesses that come back the better. We’ll be here in a couple weeks, open on Memorial Day – the beers will be pouring, food will be cooking, and we’ll be here giving place a people to come and enjoy summertime in Sea Bright.”