By Donald Wittkowski
The Springfield Inn, the quintessential no-frills seashore bar that has been part of Sea Isle City’s entertainment scene since the 1970s, has found a potential buyer but will remain open for at least one more summer season.
The beachfront bar and nightclub has been on the market for $6.7 million as part of a proposed redevelopment plan that would see the old building replaced with a new restaurant and upscale condominiums.
Dustin Laricks, a Sea Isle real estate broker who is handling the sale, said a partnership has come to terms to buy the Springfield but will first go through an extensive “due diligence” process before deciding whether to complete the purchase.
Laricks said the terms remain confidential, including the sale price. He would not disclose any information about the partnership other than to say it would be a new group coming to Sea Isle.
The value of the Springfield Inn is its prime, beachfront location at the corner of 43rd Street and Pleasure Avenue. It is the only beachfront business in Sea Isle that has a liquor license.
The property is being marketed as the future site of a three-story complex containing a restaurant, outdoor beach bar, retail space and 13 condos. The Sea Isle Planning Board approved the redevelopment plan last year.
“If this potential deal goes through, they are seriously considering the redevelopment plan approved by Sea Isle,” Laricks said of the partnership looking to buy the Springfield.
Architectural renderings give a glimpse of the proposed development project. They depict a restaurant on the ground level as well as an outdoor beachfront bar. The top two floors would be occupied by condos featuring their own terraces.
In the meantime, the current owners of the Springfield plan to keep the nightclub open for the 2018 summer tourism season. The Springfield’s fate will be decided after the summer.
“The main thing is, the Springfield will be open this summer, as it has been for all these years,” Laricks said. “You would absolutely see it reopen this summer, with or without this potential sale.”
The throwback bar with shabby chic interior has possessed a special allure for legions of casually dressed customers ever since it opened in 1972 under the ownership of the Bisciotti family. Sisters Betsy Cooney, Terry Eidenberg and Joanne Bisciotti have followed their parents, Joe and Liz Bisciotti, as the Springfield’s owners.
In its current iteration, the Springfield includes a nightclub and the outdoor Carousel Bar, a casual watering hole adjacent to the city’s oceanfront Promenade walkway. Popular with crowds that come right off the beach, the Springfield is known for its unadorned surroundings.
The Springfield’s coveted beachfront location makes it a strong candidate for redevelopment. It may be the latest local establishment to capitalize on a 2008 change in the city’s zoning law that allows businesses to rebuild commercial properties while adding more residential space.
The mixed-use projects include commercial establishments such as bars, restaurants and retail shops operating on the street level, while the top floors feature condos or apartments.
Business partners Christopher Glancey and Bob Morris have popularized the mixed-use concept with three new major development projects that have transformed Sea Isle’s Townsends Inlet section with new retail, restaurant and residential attractions. Glancey, who serves as president of the Sea Isle Chamber of Commerce and Revitalization, is not part of the partnership trying to buy the Springfield Inn, Laricks said.
Laricks believes the Springfield’s proposed redevelopment would give a boost to the city’s economy by creating a major new attraction in town.
“My opinion is, this is a nice concept and would be a nice addition to the island,” he said. “But no final plans are set in stone.”
Laricks pointed out that the Springfield’s proposed sale reflects Sea Isle’s strong real estate market, both in the commercial and residential sectors.
“The market is excellent,” he said. “It’s nice that there are so many people who want to invest on the island and in my town.”
There are currently 114 residential properties up for sale in Sea Isle, perhaps the lowest number Laricks has ever seen.
“The demand is exceeding the supply,” he said. “That is showing a hot market.”