By DONALD WITTKOWSKI
Overgrown weeds poke through the beach sand at the old Carousel Bar and have begun to cover the ground like some ugly green shag carpeting.
An awning that once provided shade from the sun for customers sipping their drinks at the outdoor bar has either been ripped down or blown away by the winds whipping off the ocean.
A big sign that used to announce the lineup of live bands appearing at the bar throughout the summer is in shambles, with half of it lying on the ground and the rest of it still slapped on the side of the building.
This is the sad scene now at the old Springfield Inn and its outdoor Carousel Bar, once popular hangouts for Sea Isle City’s drinking crowd. They have taken on a ghost town-like appearance since closing for good on Sept. 21, 2019, to make way for the beachfront property’s sale and redevelopment.
Nearly a full year later, the sale has not yet been completed and it is not clear when it will be. Representatives for the Springfield Inn’s owners and would-be buyers either declined to comment or did not return messages.
Development plans for the property include a new three-story complex. A new restaurant and an outdoor bar would be on the first level. The rest of the project would include a banquet hall on the second floor and four upscale condos on the third level.
First, the old Springfield Inn must be torn down. No demolition date has been announced pending completion of the sale.
In what is seen as a prelude to the sale, City Council on Tuesday approved the annual renewal of the Springfield Inn’s liquor license, even though the bar is closed.
Council President William Kehner explained that the liquor license would have been sent back to the New Jersey Division of Alcoholic Beverage Control if the current owners did not renew it by Sept. 30.
Now that the license is renewed, the buyers will be in position to have it transferred in their name after they acquire the Springfield Inn. Otherwise, the sale might have been complicated if the buyers had to obtain an entirely new liquor license, Kehner said.
He called the renewal of the liquor license “a key step” for completing the sale.
“I keep hearing rumors that they are moving forward,” Kehner said of the buyers.
The new group looking to buy the Springfield Inn is called HKM43 LLC. It is an acronym for the initials of the last names of the buyers as well as a reference to the Springfield’s location on 43rd Street.
Three investors will each own a 33.3 percent stake. They include Brian Halligan, of Flourtown, Pa., John Krinis, of Glenside, Pa., and Chris Myers, of Blue Bell, Pa., according to documents on file with Sea Isle’s planning board.
Halligan is the owner and managing partner of MEH Investments, a company that has developed commercial, residential and apartment projects in the Philadelphia area. Neither Halligan nor his real estate agent returned messages seeking comment about the Springfield Inn sale.
The Springfield Inn opened in 1972 under the ownership of the Bisciotti family. Sisters Betsy Cooney, Terry Eidenberg and Joanne Bisciotti followed their parents, Joe and Liz Bisciotti, as the Springfield’s owners. The real estate agent representing the sisters declined to comment on the sale.
The Springfield’s coveted beachfront location at 43rd Street and Pleasure Avenue makes it a strong candidate for redevelopment. It is the only beachfront business in Sea Isle that has a liquor license.
Springfield Inn has been on the market for $6.7 million. It has not yet been disclosed how much the new buyers are paying.
In previous interviews, a real estate agent representing the buyers said that they want to preserve the Springfield’s iconic name by retaining it when the property is redeveloped. They also plan to keep the name of the Springfield’s formerly popular Carousel Bar, according to planning board documents.
For years, legions of customers would roll straight off the beach in their bathing suits and flip-flops to enjoy the casual bar’s unadorned surroundings.
Now, “Private Property … Keep Out” signs and a vinyl fence block off access to the Carousel’s gazebo-style outdoor bar and tables that once were mobbed with summer crowds.