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One of three bars at Donovan’s Reef is a thatched roof tiki bar.  (Photo by Susan Ericson. Click to enlarge)


Flip-flop wearing beachgoers can now drink their beverage of choice at any of three separate bars within the confines of the newly re-built Donovan’s Reef in Sea Bright. PieHole recently paid its first visit to the sprawling party palace since its resurrection from the devastation of Hurricane Sandy.

And is this the Jersey Shore? Swaying palm trees and ocean views could easily have your thinking you’re on a tropical vacation.
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donovan's 052616donovan's 071015 3Obliterated by Hurricane Sandy in 2012 and revived last summer as an open-air bar (seen at right), Sea Bright’s Donovan’s Reef is finally on track to having a permanent home again, NJ.com reports. The oceanfront watering hole is two weeks into a construction project that’s estimated to take about 10 months, the news site reports.

“I’m looking forward to the return of a Donovan’s that, like the rest of the new Seas Bright, is built to last,” Mayor Dina Long told NJ.com. “Donovan’s is an integral piece of the Sea Bright fabric. Without Donovan’s in Sea Bright, it feels like something’s missing.” (Photos by John T. Ward. Click to enlarge)



donovan's 071015 3With new access ramps over the sea wall, the restored tiki bar at Donovan’s was back in business Friday afternoon, as co-owner Chris Bowler announced via the signboard, below. (Photos by John T. Ward. Click to enlarge)


donovan's 071015 1Thirty-two months after it was knocked cold by Hurricane Sandy, a Sea Bright watering hole stirred back to life in limited form Friday afternoon.

Employees of Donovan’s Reef, which had been a magnet to Wall Street millionaires and Side Street store clerks alike, threw open a fenced gate to its beachfront tiki bar shortly before 3 p.m., marking the end of a long, frustrating struggle, its owners said.

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


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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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)


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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LurieKirkKimballBandleader Brian Kirk (center) brings his Jirks back to the Basie stage on December 23, in a Santa for Lunch Break benefit that boasts the chart-topping voices of Elliot Lurie from Looking Glass (left), and Bobby Kimball from Toto (right).


Over the course of some two decades working favorite watering holes up and down the Jersey Shore — and building a solid following as a go-to group for weddings and corporate events — Brian Kirk & the Jirks have kept the party percolating by specializing in one thing: that attention compelling, wildly eclectic genre known as Other People’s Hit Songs.

This coming Monday, when the guys best known for their long tenure at Sea Bright’s much-missed Donovan’s Reef leave the bars behind for the grand proscenium of the Count Basie Theatre, they’ll be calling in reinforcements on the hitmen front — The Nerds, whose entertaining shtick and awesome chops have broken them out into the big world beyond Jersey. They’ll also welcome a couple of guys from out of town — the sort of men whose names and faces might not be known to all, but whose professional lives are all about The Hits. Who own The Hits.

The occasion is Santa for Lunch Break, a benefit for the borough-based nonprofit Lunch Break of Red Bank, and a sequel to last December’s sold-out Santa for Sea Bright event that raised crucial funds for the seagrass-roots organization Sea Bright Rising. Billed as a “variety show format” with “energetic music, bad jokes, and a little bit of ‘Bruce’ for a great cause,” the 8 pm concert follows in the spirit of Dunesday, the summertime series of beach-bash benefits that the enterprising Kirk maintained even after Superstorm Sandy dispatched Donovan’s to Davy Jones’ Locker — and that drew many thousands of faithful (including an enthusiastic Mr. Springsteen) to its open-air funraisers for neighbor families and community causes.

For the December 23 show in Red Bank, Kirk and his crew will share the stage with a couple of classic voices who are sure to strike a chord with anyone who never left home without a transistor radio or Walkman. Bobby Kimball is the vocalist whose time in Toto resulted in such Top Five hits as “Hold The Line,” “Africa,” and the Grammy winning “Rosanna” — while Jersey guy Elliot Lurie is none other than the singer and songwriter behind Looking Glass, and one of the most recognizable lite-rock bar anthems in all of human history, the 1972 Number One smash “Brandy.”

The Party Committee at redbankgreen spoke to busy bandleader (and owner of Red Bank-based Key Telecom Inc.) Brian Kirk as he made continued preparations for Santa’s wild ride.

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


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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Jersey Shore barband legend Brian Kirk (above, at the 2001 Oysterfest in Red Bank) and his band of partystarting Jirks come to the Count Basie on December 20 for a sold-out Sea Bright Rising benefit. Below, actress-musician Jill Hennessey is also slated to appear. (Click to enlarge)


The way Brian Kirk tells it, the slender “city” of Sea Bright has been his home in more ways than one. “It’s where I met my wife, where I spent my youth and is the home base for my cover band, Brian Kirk & the Jirks,” he says.

While the long-running combo continues to gig regularly around the region’s wedding halls, outdoor stages and nitespots, the Red Bank resident’s legacy as an entertainer is entwined with Donovan’s Reef, the landmark beach bar  where the Jirks held down a Sunday night stand that outlived nearly all the original anchors of 60 Minutes.

With Hurricane Sandy having (at least temporarily) consigned Donovan’s Reef to Davy Jones’ Locker, Kirk looks homeward on Thursday, December 20, when he and the Jirks team up with the seagrass-roots organization Sea Bright Rising for a benefit show from which all proceeds will go directly to Sea Bright “residents, businesses and the community as a whole.”

Occurring in the wake of the December 5 concert that brought San Francisco-based band Train to the edge of the battered borough’s tent city, the special Santa for Sea Bright extravaganza – officially sold out as of this posting – takes place at the Count Basie Theatre, the elegant setting for one of the displaced town’s council meetings in recent weeks. Kirk & the Jirks will be joined for the 7:30 p.m. show by a fellow stalwart of the Shore barscape, championship bluesmaster Matt O’Ree, as well as a promised set of “special guests” that includes TV series star (Crossing Jordan, Law & Order) turned singer and songwriter Jill Hennessy.

redbankgreen caught up with a beyond-busy Kirk for a conversation about good times, hard choices, and the big challenges facing the little town that so many of us feel a connection to.

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tiki-barBeach bar season is officially over, as Donovan’s Reef had its tiki bar craned off the beach in Sea Bright Thursday morning. It’ll go into winter storage. (Photo by Dustin Racioppi; click to enlarge)


donovansA view of the aftermath from last month’s northeaster at Donovan’s Reef. (Photo by Dustin Racioppi)


The website of Donovan’s Reef urges visitors to check out the bar’s trove of pictures of its tiki bar, outdoor deck and volleyball court to see what they look like before the crowd gets there. It also features a brief video panning across the deck and, beyond the volleyball court and tiki bar, the Atlantic Ocean.

The ocean is about the only thing left of it these days.

A series of winter storms, devastatingly punctuated by a March northeaster, has left many Sea Bright beaches in disarray, and the uprooted palm trees, blown-away chairs and knocked over lifeguard stands at Donovan’s Reef are among the most glaring examples of that.

In other places, like the Tradewinds and Fountains beach club areas, access stairs are up to six feet above the sand, says Borough Administrator Maryann Smeltzer.

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