Surf City Hotel Opens Outdoor Dining Porch

Breath of Fresh Air Updates Landmark’s History
By MARIA SCANDALE | Aug 20, 2019
Photo by: Ryan Morrill

Surf City — Ceremonial scissors snapped the wide, blue ribbon Friday, and the open-air dining porch at the Surf City Hotel welcomed its first guests.

Dramatically, the event wrapped up a two-year renovation of the historic landmark building. But in laid-back LBI style, the feeling was as breezy as the porch makes its guests feel.

Situated on the ocean side of the restaurant, the veranda is covered under roof, and the edge beyond columns offers a row of tables overlooking the new outdoor patio below. The decor is beachy, and flowering bushes seclude the space from any beyond-Island cares.

The porch opens to the public at noon for lunch, cocktails and light fare. It carries into dinnertime until 10 p.m. – by then, one of the live bands in its Beach Bar are amping into full swing inside.

On Aug. 16, the Southern Ocean County Chamber of Commerce, members of Surf City Borough Council and the Surf City Business Coalition came out to congratulate. From a tent on the patio, radio station WJRZ announced winners of raffle ticket prizes.

“We’re really excited about this, because it recaptures the face of what the hotel was like 100 years ago,” said Colleen Gewirtz, owner with her husband, Greg. “This porch was here; we just opened it up. We have pictures: it was enclosed for probably over 75 years.”

Surf City Mayor Francis Hodgson, in his 50th year of elected office on council, could name a succession of owners of the hotel/restaurant/bar, some at the helm longer than others. The Gewirtzes bought the property in March 2017.

“I used to have a lot of good times here,” Hodgson reminisced. “It has been a very successful bar and a very successful dining room. I remember the old building. And they did an awesome job with this building. It looks beautiful with the awnings and the siding, really putting it out here.”

The historic structure is 100 years old, and it holds an informal charm even after the remodeling and upgrading of amenities.

“I think we have really maintained the character of it and have brought her back to the beauty that she was, and this porch is part of that,” Gewirtz said.

“This is the culmination of two years – probably more than two years – of work,” she continued. “We’ve really accomplished so much in that time frame. We have hit everything on the property, and the porch culminates all that work we’ve been doing.”

The outside lining of tables seats 24 to 28 people now, but has zoning approval for eight tables of four seats each. The inner rectangle can hold another 30 more people. “So, literally the entire room can fit up to 60 people,” Gewirtz said.

“This is going to be open all through the fall as well,” said Gewirtz “We can offer the porch, this entire dining room, to open air. It is separated with glass doors, so you can sit inside and still enjoy the outdoors, or like today, we opened them up.”

Her brother, John Egan of John Egan Contracting, “has done everything here; has driven every nail,” Colleen Gewirtz thanked. “He has done a phenomenal job. It’s restoring history.”

The hotel, 800 North Long Beach Boulevard, is one of the oldest structures on Long Beach Island. “The original structure was built in the late 1800s. The hotel and small bar were popular with local fishermen and hunters. In the late 1940s, the cocktail lounge was expanded, and summer vacationers would stop by to enjoy the entertainment and the popular cocktails of the era,” says the hotel website.

“The hotel has a colorful history, with fabulous parties and notoriety during the days before Prohibition. Before the previous structure burned down, it was rumored to be haunted. There are still many people on the Island who have heard the ghost stories, and come to the hotel looking for intrigue. The new owners ... have been looking to meet up with the ghosts, so far without success.”

Mayor Hodgson, at age 87, has been coming to LBI since he was eight weeks old. As a retired building contractor, he noted a few other insights in terms of the present renovation.

“I think it was in the high ’40s, early ’50s, this building was condemned,” he recalled. “The problem was there was an old beam, going across the whole dining room and the bar, that had to be replaced because it wasn’t holding anything. A fellow by the name of Bill Tooker was a local carpenter, and he came up with a way of doing it without using a crane.”

The Facebook page connects to the website, surfcityhotel.com, which lists an overview of history, along with the restaurant menu and entertainment schedule.

mariascandale@thesandpaper.net

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