By DONALD WITTKOWSKI
Sea Isle City has sent the owners of the Springfield Inn a violation notice warning them that they “face consequences” if they don’t make repairs to the deteriorating property or demolish it.
The Springfield Inn, closed since September 2019, is in the process of being sold to a restaurant group that plans to tear down the old building and redevelop the site for an outdoor beach bar and restaurant.
Gary Holloway, founder of GMH Restaurant Holdings, disclosed his plans to buy the Springfield during a City Council meeting Tuesday conducted by teleconference amid the coronavirus pandemic. The purchase price was not announced.
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.
Before the Springfield’s sale is completed, the sisters plan to fix up the property in response to a violation notice from the city, according to their real estate representative.
“The owners have hired a contractor to make repairs. More importantly, they are working with GMH to obtain the permits needed to build the beach bar and restaurant so GMH can proceed with demolishing and removing the existing building,” said Dustin Laricks, a Sea Isle real estate broker representing the sisters in the Springfield’s sale.
The city sent inspectors to the Springfield Inn this month amid complaints from representatives of the 4400 Beach Condo Association that the former bar had become a “major safety hazard.” The condo complex is located next door to the Springfield site at 43rd Street and Pleasure Avenue.
City Solicitor Paul Baldini told the condo association’s representatives during Tuesday’s Council meeting that the Springfield Inn was in violation of Sea Isle’s building codes. He didn’t specify the type of violation, but noted that the Springfield’s owners were sent a notice ordering them to fix up the property or demolish it.
“The Springfield has been issued a violation notice with a detailed letter explaining what needs to be done in order to bring the property in compliance, remove the structure and grade the parcel or face consequences if that is not done,” Baldini said.
John King, a member of the condo association, cited a litany of “safety concerns” with the Springfield Inn property during public remarks at the Oct. 13 Council meeting.
He said they include tools, debris and machinery left on the roof, broken signs on the outer walls and insulation protruding from the windows and lying on the ground. He also said the property is marred by trash and overgrown weeds at the Springfield’s old outdoor bar, the Carousel.
“The primary issue that we would like to present to the committee today is that building is falling into disarray and in our eyes is fast becoming a major safety hazard to the community,” King told the Council members. “With the upcoming winter weather and the current hurricane season, concerns about the status of the building become even more serious.”
Mayor Leonard Desiderio told the condo association representatives that city officials inspected the Springfield property for building code violations.
“We want you to know we had a number of inspectors go up there last week and view the property. They are compiling a list and they are prepared to take action to get some of the repairs and some of the things that need to be done, done,” the mayor said during the Oct. 13 Council meeting.
Meanwhile, Holloway indicated Tuesday that he wants to move quickly to demolish the Springfield Inn once he completes the purchase. He said he hopes to start construction in February and open his new outdoor beach bar and restaurant by May. But first, he would have to secure approval from Sea Isle’s planning board.
Holloway has developed an outdoor beach-themed bar in Somers Point, called The Point, that will serve as a model for his Sea Isle project.
The Springfield Inn has been on the market for $6.7 million. Springfield’s coveted beachfront location makes it a strong candidate for redevelopment. It is the only beachfront business in Sea Isle that has a liquor license.