011016harrys4Lynne Perry-Szwede, behind the bar, reminisced with Mary Orr, above, while Feli Donato and Mike Sakowski took a last turn at the pool table at Harry’s Lobster House. (Photos by Susan Ericson. Click to enlarge)


011016harrys2In the end, it was more about the sounds than the food as musicians and music lovers jammed Harry’s Lobster House in Sea Bright Sunday night.

With no specific plans in the near future, longtime owner Lou Jacoubs said he’d decided to retire and close the Ocean Avenue restaurant, which had been in operation for 83 years.

“I’m 65 years old,” he said. “It’s been good, but it’s time to go.”
011016harrys6Music lovers showed up to say goodbye to what they called a Sea Bright legend. (Photo by Susan Ericson. Click to enlarge)

Competition was a factor, he acknowledged. “It’s not easy to make money, and Tommy’s is killing it,” he said, adding, “this is the only thing I know how to do,.”

In the last three years, Harry’s became less about the Continental cuisine Jacoubs learned to perpare in France and more about the music scene. In that time, manager Lynne Perry-Szwede has been booking local bands to fill both the inside bar and outside patio with music. The elegant dining scene took a back-seat to burgers and bands.

Mary Orr, a 1980s-era employee from Middletown, remembers the restaurant when it was “the place to eat. There was Harry’s and Fromagerie,” she said. “The Fromagerie was for events and Harry’s was where they came to have good food. Lou was an icon. This was the place for fine dining.”

“It was highly successful,” she said. “No one made a Caesar salad like they did it here. The oysters Rockefeller were to die for, and the lobster bisque. I’m gonna miss this place.”

Feli Donato and Mike Sakowski made a beeline to the empty pool table.

“It was a great hangout, especially in the summer, when people would walk by and hear the music,” said Donato.

Darma Arbakow, a Howell resident, credited Perry-Szwede for getting the atmosphere going. “She found her calling in, booking the bands. She did this by herself.”

The closing, she said, “wasn’t a surprise. At some point this was gonna happen.”

Several musicians came out to pay tribute to what they called the end of an era, including the Moroccan Sheepherders, Sandy Mack, Mark Ribler and Matt O’Ree.

A deal hasn’t been solidified, but the building will reopen as a restaurant, said Jacoubs, who deflected questions about the liquor license and style of cuisine that might follow.

“I’m happy for Lou. It’s time to move on,” Perry-Szwede says, “But I’ll miss the musicians and the people.”