Where's the Party? A New Wave of Beach Bars

By Ellen McCarthy
Washington Post Staff Writer
Friday, May 18, 2007

It's 9:30 on a Thursday night and the taxicabs in front of Seacrets are looping through the parking lot and out to the Ocean City street.

And just like that, summer is here.

Beaches, bikinis and, naturally, bars.

You can still find the same old, reliable good times at Seacrets -- recent college grads in micro minis, middle-aged men in visors and golf shirts -- but time marches on, even at the shore, and with it comes new haunts, new dives.

Let's take a quick pub crawl, shall we?

Ocean City

Okay, there are plenty of places around here to kick off your flip-flops and drink from plastic cups among the not-quite-of-age-to-rent-a-car set.

But if you're looking for an option that's a little more, uh, adult, head back over the bridge toward Route 50 and duck into the Ocean City Fishing Center. At the rear of the parking lot, welcoming its guests with steel tiki torches and soft lighting is Mickey Fins (12952 Inlet Isle Lane, Ocean City; 410-213-9033).

It has the feel of a big boathouse, with pale-blue siding and a great, two-level deck with stunning views of calm water and other people's boats.

This is a marble tabletop kind of joint, but its most regular clientele are fishing captains just off a day's work.

"It's a completely diverse crowd," says John Curry, general manager of Mickey Fins, which opened last year on Fourth of July weekend. "It's the best view in all of Ocean City, I guarantee it."

Well, there are surely a dozen other bar owners who would beg to differ, but it is quite pretty. The bar will have live bands (classic rock, reggae and the like) on Fridays and Sundays, with DJs setting up shop on Thursdays and Saturdays.

Mickey Fins is also a restaurant, specializing in seafood unsurprisingly. But if you're just there to drink, you might want to try the Jell-O-cube martini they're mixing up behind the mahogany bar.

Another new drinking option is under construction a couple of blocks down from Seacrets in the 45th Street Village. The retail strip was slated to be torn down and turned into condos, but it was given a reprieve by developers, which gave Mark Mitchell and Bruce Krasner a chance to swoop in and open Pulse (4435 Coastal Hwy., Ocean City, 410-723-1711) -- the type of place they'd been talking about for years.

"Pulse really will be unlike anything O.C. has seen as far as being a very upscale nightclub," said Mitchell, who ran clubs in New York for 16 years before deciding he wanted another life.

He and Krasner, who runs the city's ubiquitous T-Shirt Factory stores, are converting the second-story space into a sophisticated lounge with lush seating and fountains, fiber-optic lights and fruit-infused vodkas.

"We want to satisfy those people who have been to Seacrets before and want something different, want a nice martini, want a nice cosmo, a nice bottle of wine," Krasner says.

And along those lines, the two are developing a strict dress code to make sure the patrons match the sleek decor. "You would feel rather foolish if you came and weren't dressed up," Mitchell says. "If you came in shorts and T-shirts you would feel outclassed."

DJs will spin at the club on Friday and Saturday nights, but the owners are hoping to have live music on the other five evenings. There were still buzz saws running in the background when Krasner and Mitchell got on the phone last week, but they're hoping to be checking IDs and pouring cocktails at Pulse by the third week in June.

Dewey Beach

Up the road in Dewey Beach, Del., the headline is this: Ruddertowne remains. That means cheap beers, lots of tacos and plenty of full-scale intoxication.

Rumors of the institution's demise are greatly exaggerated, its managers say. They'll be flipping burgers and mixing gin and tonics for the foreseeable future.

For the most part, all of Dewey's institutions remain unchanged.

The one exception this summer is in the old MoJo's space on the oceanfront side of Highway One. There, husband-and-wife team Sharon and Ben Roy are putting the final touches on a bar and restaurant named Scully's Ocean Side Cafe (2000 Route 1, Dewey Beach; 302-227-9000).

The sign out front kind of explains it all: A redheaded mermaid, playing a harp and sitting next to a big glass of red wine.

"Very casual, but a casual-clean" is how Sharon Roy describes the feel they're shooting for. It's a vaguely Irish joint, with Guinness on tap, but she expects that the wine list, as much as the beer, will draw patrons looking for a calmer Dewey experience.

Scully's might also end up serving as a midday antidote to the toxins ingested the night before. Its menu features bison burgers and steaks -- a low-fat alternative to other red meats -- and a special oven that crisps French fries without a drop of oil.

"It's just a place where people can come, have fun, get healthy meals and drink," Roy says.


Continuity is the name of the game in Rehoboth, too. A few old favorites are finding new homes around town, but there are no tragic closings to report.

One grand opening -- that was actually more subtle than grand -- took place a month ago on Wilmington Avenue when the Rams Head Tavern was sold and renamed Sea Breeze Restaurant and Bar (15 Wilmington Ave., Rehoboth Beach; 302-227-0807).

At first glance, you won't notice too many differences. Probably at second glance, too.

"It's actually gonna be in the same spirit of the Rams Head: a big beer list, burgers and steaks and sandwiches," says general manager Jon March. "They can expect a few changes for the better, but it's going to be very similar."

The changes include a few new menu items and some tinkering with the brews on tap, but there will still be live music on weekends and happy hour specials weekdays from 4 to 7 p.m.

Loyalists seem to have adjusted to the change. On a recent Friday night almost every seat in the house was taken. The beers were $2 and the wings were free. What more do you want after a long day at the beach?

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