Wildwood picks beach bar proposal from Philly nightclub owners

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WILDWOOD—On Thursday, the Board of Commissioners accepted the proposal of a group of Philadelphia club and restaurant owners to operate a beach bar in Wildwood this summer. 

Now, Beach Buddy, LLC will have to apply to the New Jersey Division of Alcohol Beverage Control for a license to operate the bar. Awarding a contract to the company is contingent upon it receiving the proper licensing, the city said. 

“No license, no bar,” Mayor Ernie Troiano said at the meeting Thursday.

Beach Buddy, LLC is a joint venture between Anthony Morrison and Mark Marek of Philadelphia, along with Anthony Sembello of Egg Harbor Township and Christopher Herghelegiu of Ivy Land, Pa.

For 2014, they propose to pay the city a $55,000 flat fee to operate the bar, plus an additional $35,000 if it isn’t up and running by Memorial Day. That fee increases annually over five years, maxing out at $88,099 in 2018.

Marek and Morrison will be the managers of the beach bar, and one of the men will be at the bar at all times, according to their proposal.

Marek owns and manages Rumor Nightclub and Soundgarden Hall in Philadelphia, and Sembello owns Rouges Gallery in Philadelphia.

Morrison is employed with a company that plans VIP experiences for events and has previously held positions that involved planning large sporting events, according to the city. Hergehelegiu is a mortgage broker involved in a number of investment ventures, the city said.

Troiano, Commissioner Tony Leonetti and Commissioner Pete Byron (who joined Thursday’s meeting over the phone) voted unanimously to accept Beach Buddy’s proposal. Their decision came after a report made by city attorney Mary D’Arcy Bittner recommended the city move forward with Beach Buddy.

Beach Buddy, according to Bittner’s report, is more prepared to submit an application to the ABC because its structure and security plan were in place and it had identified its bar managers. Those managers would have to be cleared by the ABC, Bittner’s report stated.

“The Beach Buddy plan also appears to present a proposal more consistent with the city’s vision for a family-friendly beach,” Bittner’s report states. Under their proposal, the bar will close at 8 p.m. and possibly feature background beach-themed music, or the occasional guitar, singer, or steel drum player.

Its site plan shows there will be an area for cabanas, lounge chairs, volleyball courts, and horseshoe pits. It will cost between $350,000 and $450,000 to construct the facility, according to the proposal.

Food will also be served at the bar, and most of its structures will be made from converted shipping containers, which can be completely locked up at night, according to Bittner’s report.

Wildwood turned down a proposal from two former casino executives and an Ocean City man who owns the Varsity Inn.

Joseph Domenico of North Wildwood and Donald Marrandino of Ventnor City said they had experience working with beach bars in Atlantic City and proposed to pay the city a $30,000 flat fee to operate the bar and a 3 percent share of revenue after the bar made $1 million. But, Bittner’s report stated that the men did not expect the bar to see over $1 million in revenue.

Bittner’s six-page reports explains that while Domenico and Marrandino are well-experienced, they planned to hire another person to manage the beach bar, who was not yet named. Her report claimed that while the two men were well qualified, “their proposal was not sufficiently developed.”

Keith Symonds of Ocean City had proposed to pay the city $100,000 annually to operate the bar, but the city found his proposal to be insufficient, Bittner’s report said.

The beach bar is set to be up and running by Memorial Day, and Beach Buddy’s application to the ABC is expected to take between eight and 12 weeks to be approved.

Troiano said that approving the beach bar is a major step for the city to generate more revenue from its beach.

“It’s all about generating revenue for tax relief,” he said.

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