Former Chuck’s Hideaway to open under new ownership

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Laura Stetser/The bar and restaurant formerly known as Chuck's Hideaway and Brownie's is going to get new life this spring. Laura Stetser/The bar and restaurant formerly known as Chuck's Hideaway and Brownie's is going to get new life this spring.

Linwood business partners hope to have bar, restaurant and package goods store ready by St. Patrick’s Day

 EGG HARBOR TOWNSHIP – “This place is like Grand Central Station” said one of the new owners of the bar and restaurant once known as Chuck’s Hideaway, and that was saying something considering the place has been boarded up and vacant for almost a decade.

 “People are really excited. They’ve been stopping in, asking what we are doing and when we are going to open,” said Scott Raring of Linwood, who purchased the property at the corner of Bargaintown Road and Poplar Avenue with business partner Victor “Rocky” Klever, also of Linwood.   

 Even in the middle of the interview, two tow trucks idled in the front parking lot, and a local ATM vendor stopped in to pitch his services.

 “There have been so many people coming in to ask about jobs too,” Raring said during a tour of the restaurant, which appeared to be in relatively good shape despite the long gap in active ownership of the property, whose history dates back to the 1930s.

Brownie’s Lodge

 For the past few years, the property’s only visitors were drivers who used the parking lot as a spot to pull off the road and make cellphone calls, but the location used to do a brisk business.  

 Originally called Brownie’s, the business first opened in the late 1930s. The log cabin-style bar and restaurant was owned by Ethel and Harry Hoffman, who lived on the premises with their two children. The family also owned and operated a horseback riding center called The Lodge-Riding Academy, which was used to house some of the horses for the Atlantic City Racecourse.

 According to local historian John Dilks, whose parents used to patronize the restaurant, there were jockeys and handlers also living on the grounds.

 “I wasn’t allowed to go there, but at times I did sneak there,” Dilks said. “There were card games and drinking in the stalls with the horse people.”

 He said after the racetrack closed, motorcycle enthusiasts were the crowd that gathered there. “It became quite rowdy at times with fights and the lot.”

The bar was a popular spot, especially on weekends when the bars in Somers Point closed for the night, thanks to a now defunct Egg Harbor Township law that allowed bars to stay open all night.

 Brownie’s was known throughout the region for its Sunday barbecues. According to a Philadelphia Inquirer article from 1987, country bands would play both outside and inside.

 “There are jugglers, Elvis impersonators, a fortune teller and fire pits for barbecues of ribs, chicken, hamburgers and hot dogs,” the article said.

The Hoffmans owned the building until 1986, when ownership changed over to Maxine L. Inc. for a year and then to Chuck Stanfa until it closed in 2004. Stanfa operated the restaurant under the names of Chuck’s American Bar and Grille from 1997 to 2002, Chuck’s Hideaway from 2002-2003, Bayshores Inn in 2003 and then The Crossroads Bar and Restaurant from 2004 until it closed.

Combining old with new

  This week, Raring was putting a fresh coat of gray paint on the dining room walls instead of the deep green that was done in the latest renovation sometime in the early 2000s.

 The brightly colored stained glass windows and stone fireplace are still in good shape, as is most of the woodwork along the large rectangular bar in the center.

 Raring said they will be installing televisions and high-top tables in the area where the pool tables used to be, but they are not going to try to brand the place according to one theme.

 “We are both very into sports,” said Raring. He has been a local coach and referee for years, and Klever played for the New York Jets in the 1980s. “But we just want it to be a fun place, a value place,” he said.

 He would love to be able to bring back the fire pits and outdoor seating.

 “Life is difficult enough. People need a place to unwind.”

 Folks who stop in will be able to have American fare and a cold beer or pick up a bottle of wine on their way home.

 The walk-in refrigerator will allow the owners to stock a variety of packaged goods.

“Besides some copper being stolen and all of the appliances being sold when Chuck’s closed, it’s not in bad shape,” Raring said, noting that people also used the back parking lot as place to dump debris.

Raring, who owned a wholesale plumbing supply company for years before getting his real estate license and has knowledge of the construction industry, said he is doing most of the work himself.

 The new name will likely be The Steel Pub, he said.

“We are right here where Steelmanville Road begins, so we thought that was fitting,” Raring said of the 7-acre parcel.

“We are still hearing about the history of this place, and I am sure we will hear more as people start coming in.”

  Raring said they would love to be open by St. Patrick’s Day in March, pending the progress of the renovations and permitting.

 Courtesy of Carolyn Patterson, Linwood Historical Society/The front cover of the original Brownie’s menu showed the riding center business as well. Courtesy of Carolyn Patterson, Linwood Historical Society/The front cover of the original Brownie’s menu showed the riding center business as well.

Courtesy of Carolyn Patterson, Linwood Historical Society/ The menu from the original Brownie’s show how much prices have changed over the years. Courtesy of Carolyn Patterson, Linwood Historical Society/ The menu from the original Brownie’s show how much prices have changed over the years.


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