Local/State

Alcohol finally available on Wildwood boardwalk

Saturday, July 31, 2010
People enjoy the mild weather as they play in a pool of water near the Atlantic Ocean Friday, July 4, 2008, in Wildwood, N.J. (AP Photo/Mel Evans)

People enjoy the mild weather as they play in a pool of water near the Atlantic Ocean Friday, July 4, 2008, in Wildwood, N.J. (AP Photo/Mel Evans)

More than a century of tradition ended Friday as customers at Capt'n Jacks Island Grill drank the first alcohol ever served on this seaside city's famous Boardwalk.

The first order was for a Miller Lite, although the Caribbean-style eatery offers a full selection of exotic frozen drinks, including the Wildwood Vice, a concoction of rum, coconut, strawberry and pineapple.

"The Boardwalk has been around 100 years, and today's the first day. I think that's pretty important," said Capt'n Jacks bartender Russ Coombs.

Business looked pretty good as customers sipped frozen drinks, imported and domestic beers, and wine with their lunch. "At $6.50 for a Corona, it doesn't encourage excessive drinking," said Patrick Rosenello, one of the owners of Capt'n Jacks.

An ordinance adopted in June allows alcohol on the Boardwalk, but Capt'n Jacks is the first to take advantage of it. Two other businesses are close behind.

The mix of customers on the second-floor deck overlooking the beach included a corporate meeting of executives, a grandfather having a beer as he ate lunch with his grandchildren, a local family and a group of 20-somethings on vacation who had just left the water park at Morey's Piers.

Co-owner Sean Dougherty said with the recession, it's getting harder to make a living on the boards, but serving alcohol will help. He and his brother E.J. Dougherty, along with Rosenello, have invested more than $400,000 in the new business, which opened Memorial Day weekend.

"It's getting harder and harder every single year to make a dollar here. With the recession, people are coming, but they're not spending. We had to take it to the next level," Dougherty said.

That next level allowed a group of vacationers in their 20s to be the first to have a drink on the Wildwood Boardwalk, which dates to the 1890s.

"We were the first ones," said Craig McCarthy, 24, of Phillipsburg. "I think it's pretty cool. You don't have to walk a couple blocks off the Boardwalk to grab a beer."

McCarthy's friend, Charlyn Magat, 24, of South Plainfield, Middlesex County, said it is not always a walk off the beach. Sometimes it means getting in the car.

"Now you don't have to leave the Boardwalk and repark your car," Magat said.

The owners are leasing the site between Poplar and Juniper avenues from Morey's Piers and are hoping the piers will help the business. Adults, they reason, could drop their children off at the park and then have a nice dinner, complete with a cocktail.

"The demographic is not just drinkers but somebody who wants to enjoy a drink in a nice place or simply have a drink with dinner," Dougherty said.

The ordinance allowing alcohol on the Boardwalk was adopted June 8, but Rosenello said they just got final approvals Wednesday night. A management plan explaining the operation has to be approved by the city. Three liquor licenses on the Boardwalk will be allowed.

Neighboring North Wildwood began allowing alcohol sales on its beachfront in 2006 and has not had the problems some opponents envisioned.

Wildwood's ordinance stops the serving of alcohol at midnight and the consumption of alcohol at 12:30 a.m. It also limits music to background levels so it is not heard on the Boardwalk.

The ordinance created no new liquor licenses, so existing ones had to be purchased. It also limits the license to full-service restaurants with a minimum of 100 seats. The ordinance does not allow a sit-down bar, and Capt'n Jacks cards the customers at the front door and gives them a wrist bracelet if they are old enough to drink.

North Wildwood resident Scott Chambers, 42, said during a visit to Capt'n Jacks that adults should be able to decide where and when to have a drink, and he agreed it would be good for the local economy.

"Why shouldn't we be allowed to?" Chambers said. "This isn't a shot and a beer joint. We need to bring other markets down here. In Disney or Vegas, you can get a beer anywhere."

(Copyright ©2014 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)

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