SEA BRIGHT: A MARTINI RIPE WITH SUMMER

beau keegan 072214Ama mixologist Beau Keegan adds a dash of grenadine to give his white peach martini the look of a peach. (Photo by John T. Ward. Click to enlarge)

By JOHN T. WARD

ama peach martini 072214Kitchens and dining rooms aren’t the only areas of restaurants caught up in the growing interest in locally sourced artisanal food products.

At Ama Ristorante in Sea Bright, the bar has become a place of labor-intensive cocktails prepared with carefully chosen fruits and flavorings, says Beau Keegan, who runs the beverage operation.

“A generation ago, it was all about liqueurs, but there’s been a revolution in the last 10 or 15 years of people making their own purees, syrups, bitters,” he says. Driven by customer interest, “everybody’s kind of pushing each other” to find new, and fresher, ingredients, he says.
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SEA BRIGHT: DIVE RESURFACES

christine diiorio 070114Christina Di Iorio outside her Ocean Avenue bar and restaurant, which reopens Wednesday afternoon. Below, her husband, Steven Graniero. (Photo by John T. Ward. Click to enlarge)

By JOHN T. WARD

steven graniero 070114To be honest, Christina Di Iorio says, she got to the point where she didn’t want to reopen Dive, the Sea Bright restaurant and bar that she and then-fiancé Steven Graniero saw nearly wiped out by Hurricane Sandy.

Their insurance company hadn’t lived up to its obligations, she said. A vendor was suing them, and they weren’t able to get any traction with the government or private lenders to restart the Ocean Avenue business. And then there’s the hard reality of two bodies of water – the Atlantic Ocean and the Shrewsbury River – just yards away, all too ready to combine forces to once again smash the town as they did on October 29, 2012.

And yet there Di Iorio was on Tuesday, putting the final touches on a completely revamped Dive for a low-key opening at 4 p.m. Wednesday.

“I agree with you: I think we’re nuts,” she told redbankgreen. “But our clients, our families, our fan base – they all embraced us. I’m doing it for them.”

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SEA BRIGHT: DONOVAN’S COMEBACK DELAYED

sb donovan's 040214The site of Donovan’s Reef in April. (Photo above by John T. Ward. Click to enlarge)

By JOHN T. WARD

An ambitious plan to reopen a prominent Sea Bright bar by July 4 won’t meet its goal, the Star-Ledger’s website reports.

Bob Phillips, an owner of Donovan’s Reef, tells nj.com that the effort has been frustrated by his inability to obtain a loan from the federal government.

Still, the business, destroyed by Hurricane Sandy in October, 2012, will reopen in scaled-down form this summer, with completion of a permanent new structure as early as November, Phillips tells the news organization.

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SEA BRIGHT: DONOVAN’S TO REBUILD

donovan's 2 110312Donovan’s Reef as seen five days after Hurricane Sandy, above, and in better days, below. (Photo above by John T. Ward. Click to enlarge)

By JOHN T. WARD

Donovan's 10-07 2Smashed to splinters by Hurricane Sandy, Sea Bright’s venerated beachfront bar, Donovan’s Reef, will make it’s return this summer, an  owner tells redbankgreen.

The comeback, approved earlier this week by the borough planning board in a unanimous 8-0 vote, could begin with an the opening of tiki bar as soon as May 15, said Bob Phillips, who co-owns the business with two partners.

“Their mentality is, ‘We need you more than you need us,'” Phillips said of the board’s members.

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RUMSON: MURPHY’S RETURNING TO ITS ROOTS

The repeal of Prohibition on December 5, 1933, made Murphy’s Tavern legit, but owners Robb McMahon and Heather Vena, below, plan to take the Rumson bar back to its speakeasy days.  (Click to enlarge)

By JOHN T. WARD

mcmahon vena 111413Eighty years to the day after the repeal of Prohibition, a Rumson bar that got its start as a speakeasy is turning back the clock.

Heather Vena and Robb McMahon, who’ve owned Murphy’s Tavern for seven years, plan to shut the watering hole down for one week next month to give it a bit of a makeover.

Still located in the basement of a house in a quiet residential area, Murphy’s will undergo minor cosmetic changes, including the removal of some television sets, a paint job and the installation of whiskey-barrel tables.

Those will be the most visible steps in a repositioning that’s largely about offering whiskeys and bourbons more conducive to sippin’ than slammin’, and a vibe to go with it.

“We’re going to focus on the era in which we were born,” Vena tells PieHole.

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RED BANK: STILL GOING NAKED

It was nippy outside Sunday evening, but at Red Bank’s Red lounge, it was a place to Go Naked. Dozens came out to the third annual Go Naked and Check Yourself fundraiser and (ahem) educational event held to raise awareness about skin cancer, breast cancer, testicular cancer and other detectable ailments. Once again, Red Bank’s Sugarush cupcakes and Sweetest Sin lingerie shops put the bounce in the event, which had previously raised more than $20,000 for health-related charities. (Photos by Peter Lindner. Click to enlarge)

RED BANK: FIXX LICENSE HEARING POSTPONED

fixx 2 102113A pair of melees involving Fixx patrons prompted a borough move to suspend its liquor license. (Click to enlarge)

By JOHN T. WARD

Troubled Red Bank nightclub Fixx has bought itself a little more time to work on a legal strategy to prevent a suspension of its liquor license.

Borough attorney Dan O’Hern tells redbankgreen that the bar’s lawyer has requested and been given a postponement of a hearing, originally scheduled for Wednesday night, at which the town council is to conduct a trial over charges related to a pair of closing-time melees in September and October involving the club’s patrons.

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RED BANK: TRIAL ON FIXX LICENSE SLATED

fixx-ext-082411Fixx faces a possible 40-day suspension for two recent brawls. (Click to enlarge)

By JOHN T. WARD

Red Bank’s governing body is scheduled to decide next month whether to suspend the liquor license of the nightclub Fixx for up to 40 days for two recent closing-time melees, Mayor Pasquale Menna announced Wednesday night.

In addition, the borough was planning to notify the West Front Street bar’s owners on Thursday that they owe the town $33,000 for a tardy response to a fire code violation earlier this year, Administrator Stanley Sickels told redbankgreen.

Because the council will act as the equivalent of a jury at a hearing on alleged violations of state Alcohol and Beverage Control laws relating to brawls on September 22 and October 6, Menna and borough Attorney Dan O’Hern advised council members not to comment on the case.

But that didn’t stop neighbor Tony Busch Sr. from teeing up the bar, which has been the scene of two wide-ranging brawls in the past month. The most recent, early Sunday morning, required 25 cops from towns as far away as Keyport and  Long Branch, as well as eight Red Bank cops, to quell.

“What’s going on here is tantamount to a terrorist attack,” said Busch, one of five homeowners living above the Work Out World gym next door to Fixx. “This is getting worse by the day. And it’s very tough for the town, because we’re not set up for a terrorist attack.”

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RED BANK: BRAWL INJURES FIVE NEAR FIXX

By JOHN T. WARD

AUTHORITIES_RB2Three suspects and two Red Bank cops wound up in the emergency room early Sunday morning as a result of another closing-time brawl among patrons of the nightclub Fixx, police said Tuesday.

Multiple fights, which occurred during a downpour around 2 a.m., yielded a host of criminal charges.

Among them: escaping custody, for suspect who fled with his hands cuffed behind him.

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SEA BRIGHT: DUNESDAY BACK ON THE BEACH

The patio at the Mad Hatter becomes Dunesday Central for the daylong beach festival Saturday. (Photo by Colby Wilson. Click to enlarge)

By COLBY WILSON

In the months after Hurricane Sandy ripped through Sea Bright last October 29, Brian Kirk knew that keeping Dunesday in town was crucial to lifting its spirit.

But without Donovan’s Reef, which was obliterated by the storm, Kirk and his band, the Jirks, were forced to move their beachside fundraiser, now two decades old, to a new location.

“I was sad about Donovan’s from a nostalgic point of view. It was literally the first bar that hired me. It helped us become who we are,” Kirk tells redbankgreen.

“Dunesday is a brand now. It’s an individual, and it needs a home,” he said.

This year, that home is a few doors away from Donovan’s, at the Mad Hatter.

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RUMSON: REPORTS SPOTLIGHT DRUNK BARMAN

Parade-watchers at Molly Maguire’s for the Rumson St. Patrick’s celebrations on March 10. (Photo by Wil Fulton. Click to enlarge)

By JOHN T. WARD

A fight between an intoxicated bartender and a borough employee appears to have led to the negotiated five-day shutdown of Rumson’s Molly Maguire’s Black Point Inn in Rumson that starts next week, police reports suggest.

Larry D’Angelo, 45, a laborer in the public works department, and Chris Moran, 33, a bartender, were arrested after the March 11 incident, which occurred at the tail end of St. Patrick’s celebrations that included a parade.

According to the reports, police responded shortly before 1 a.m. to a call about “an employee out of control and causing a disturbance in the kitchen” at Maguire’s. There, police said they found D’Angelo lying atop Moran and restraining his arms against the floor.

“There was blood on the floor and broken tiles on the floor,” one of two reports filed by responding officers said.

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RED BANK: BASIE COURTYARD TO GET CANOPY

Less than a year after its debut, the Count’s Courtyard, the terrace bar at Red Bank’s Count Basie Theatre, is slated for a tweaking Friday with the installation of an over-all canopy.

The canopy, which will have no sides, will only be in use, like the courtyard itself, from May 1 to October 31, Basie CEO Adam Philipson told the borough planning board, which approved the change earlier this month. Use of the courtyard is limited to theater patrons two hours before and after performances and during intermissions. (Click to enlarge)

SEA BRIGHT: MAD HATTER TO REOPEN MAY 23

The Mad Hatter has given up on a proposal to operate out of a tent and plans to reopen a portion of its storm-damaged building. Below, beer bottles seen through the restaurant window last month.  (Click to enlarge)

By WIL FULTON

Dropping a controversial proposal to operate out of a large tent for the summer, Sea Bright’s Mad Hatter plans to reopen this month in its original, storm-whacked location, according to an announcement Wednesday afternoon.

In a Facebook post, owners Scott and Amy Kelly said the popular sports bar is scheduled to reopen May 23, operating out of the Ocean Avenue structure’s back room and tiki bar, supplemented for the summer by a mobile kitchen.

The earlier proposal, made to borough officials just last month, called for a 400-person tent to be erected at the edge of the municipal parking two blocks away, and faced an array of red tape involving state and local agencies. Some other downtown merchants opposed the plan, which they said would eat up too much public parking.

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RED BANK: BAR’S OPEN AT THE OYSTER POINT

The Pearl Restaurant and Lounge reopened late last week for the first time since Hurricane Sandy knocked the hotel out of commission. (Photo by Wil Fulton. Click to enlarge)

By WIL FULTON

The last time redbankgreen visited Red Bank’s Oyster Point Hotel, a handwritten sign was taped to the front doors telling would-be visitors that the hotel and restaurant/bar would reopen “when it is safe to do so.”

Nearly three months later, the Oyster Point took a step forward in its rebuilding plan with the reopening of its posh Pearl Restaurant and Lounge – much to the delight of regulars and new customers alike.

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IN ASBURY AND IN PRINT: RATS AND BARFLIES

Cliff Galbraith with his two recent comic books, above, and talking with fan John Hanley on Broad Street, below. (Click to enlarge)

This Saturday, a pair of Red Bank comic book aficionados – dealer and Comic Book Men star Robert Bruce, and author/illustrator Cliff Galbraith – are putting on Asbury Park Comic Con 2, reprising an event they debuted in May. redbankgreen spoke with Galbraith recently about his own relationship with the printed form of his work.

By JOHN T. WARD

It took a kind of SMACK! to the head, but Red Bank’s Cliff Galbraith learned his lesson:

When it comes to comic books, the web isn’t nirvana.

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CHAR GETS LIQUORED UP & LANDLORD SCORES

The restaurant is doing an extensive overhaul at 33 Broad Street and plans a September opening, says the landlord. (Click to enlarge)

By JOHN T. WARD

Rcsm2_010508You’ll be able to get a bourbon with that porterhouse when Char Steakhouse opens in Red Bank later this year.

And among those who may want to raise a beverage in celebration is landlord Jack Anderson, whose hedge bet on a liquor license has paid off.

“I’d be screwed without it,” he tells redbankgreen.

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JEWELRY STORE TAKES MONMOUTH SPACE

Ashley Goral will manage Ice, which plans to open soon at 12 Monmouth Street. (Click to enlarge)

By JOHN T. WARD

Rcsm2_010508

A primo spot on the sunny side of Monmouth Street in Red Bank is about to get some ice.

Most recently home to Soapmarket, which vacated in January to become an online-only retailer, 12 Monmouth is being outfitted for Ice Costume Jewelry, which hopes to open in just a couple of weeks, store manager Ashely Goral tells redbankgreen‘s Retail Churn.

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PLANNING BOARD: CHAR DESIGN WELL-DONE

Char owner Matteo Ingrao with supporters after obtaining approval for his steakhouse, which includes a makeover of the two-story portion at right in the image below. (Click to enlarge)

By JOHN T. WARD

In a decision widely seen as replacing a busted cylinder in downtown Red Bank’s economic engine, the borough planning board approved a handful of variances for Char Steakhouse Monday night.

The restaurant, which plans to occupy the space long held by Ashes Cigar Bar at the corner of Broad and Mechanic streets, encountered only light resistance over questions of whether changes to a two-story extension of the original 19th-century building complied with historic district guidelines.

Mayor Pasquale Menna brushed aside such concerns, likening a pair of two-story, rectangular windows on the 1960s addition to I.M. Pei’s once-controversial installation of a glass pyramid to bring light into the depths of Paris’ Louvre museum.

“I see your attempt to infuse rays of light” into a dark space where his mother once worked as a seamstress, Menna said. “That is a very creative use and recycling of a property.”

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WILD BOAR ON THE LOOSE IN RUMSON

Scene of the crime: Murray MacGregor’s, above, and the pilfered Mr. Oinkers, below. (Click to enlarge)

By JOHN T. WARD

Call it the case of the pilfered pig.

Sometime last week, someone climbed up on a dining room chair at Murray MacGregor’s Publik House in Rumson and removed a mounted wild boar’s head from a wall.

And out the door it went, wee wee wee wee all the way home, apparently.

Never to be seen again? Time will tell. At the moment, the restaurant’s new owners, Kathy and Mike Maguire, are more amused, not angry, Kathy tells redbankgreen. They haven’t even bothered calling the cops.

But there is a surveillance system in the restaurant that may have caught the pignapping on videotape. And if they feel inclined to hunt down the poacher, they may take the time to review it, she says.

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A FESTIVE DAY OF SANTAS, EDDIES & A HORSE

It was silly Saturday in Red Bank, as roving bands of Santas and Cousin Eddies did some major barhopping for charity, hitting just about every watering hole in town and shaking their pails for contributions.

In the process, they raised some serious cash. SantaCon shook out $1,100 for the Red Bank Middle School Athletics Foundation, and EddieCon raked in $2,000, plus a $2,000 corporate match, for the Monmouth Day Care Center.

As far as we know, nobody got arrested, and a good time was had by all, including Prince, the horse, who was also out doing his seasonal thing of taking visitors on rides in his carriage.

IT’S OFFICIAL: CHAR TAKES ASHES SPACE

ashes-072011Vacant for the past year, the corner building on Broad Street has a new tenant. (Click to enlarge)

By JOHN T. WARD

The three-story space formerly home to Ashes Cigar Bar in Red Bank is about to get some of its sizzle back.

After a year of vacancy, the building at the corner of Broad and Mechanic streets has a new tenant, Char Steakhouse. An ill-kept but unconfirmed secret in town for weeks, the acknowledgement came Monday, when signs appeared in the windows of the vacant space to alert passersby.

Building owner Jack Anderson of Jack’s Music Shoppe across Broad Street also confirmed the deal, and said he is in the process of obtaining borough government approval to sell Char the liquor license he bought from the now defunct Little Kraut restaurant on Bridge Avenue.

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SEA BRIGHT: BOUNCER NOW OWNS THE JOINT

chris-woodWith a partner, Chris Wood has taken over Ichabod’s and is revamping the space as Woody’s Ocean Grille. (Photo by Dustin Racioppi; click to enlarge)

By DUSTIN RACIOPPI

It was hard for Chris Wood to imagine, some 25 years ago as a door man at Ichabod’s, that he’d return to the Sea Bright “institution,” as he calls it, for anything more than a beer and a burger.

“Absolutely not,” said 50-year-old Wood. “I always loved the building, always loved the spot. Never did I think I was going to own the place.”

Wood, who left his post at Ichabod’s door in the mid-80s to become a bond broker on Wall Street, is making an unlikely — and “super, super exciting” — return to his roots on East Church Street, taking over Ichabod’s and rebranding it Woody’s Ocean Grille.

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RISING FROM THE ASHES? WATCH THIS SPACE

jack-anderson-072110Landlord Jack Anderson says he’s gotten a number of proposals for the former Ashes space. (Click to enlarge)

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 Jack’s Music Shoppe, and he’s “motivated” to get a deal done ASAP.

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