By DONALD WITTKOWSKI
Shortly after 8:30 a.m. Monday, a 25-ton excavator began using its metal claw to smash the Springfield Inn’s old buildings to bits.
A small, tiki-style bar where legions of casually dressed patrons had sipped drinks for decades was flattened in minutes.
Then came the ominous sounds of shattered glass, twisted metal and crushed wood as the excavator tore big chunks out of another building that had been part of the Springfield Inn’s popular outdoor Carousel Bar.
Within a few hours, the Carousel Bar was reduced to rubble. The same fate awaits the Springfield Inn’s main building later this week when the demolition crews focus their attention on that part of the property.
The now-shuttered nightclub, a landmark in Sea Isle City’s bar scene since the 1970s, is being torn down to make room for redevelopment of the beachfront property at 43rd Street and Pleasure Avenue.
The Springfield Inn and its famously casual outdoor Carousel Bar, a hangout for people coming straight off the beach dressed in bathing suits and T-shirts, are being replaced by a new upscale drinking and dining attraction that fits in with Sea Isle’s increasingly higher-end image.
Called The Point at Sea Isle City, it will feature an island-themed outdoor bar and restaurant modeled after a similar project, also called The Point, that has been a success in Somers Point.
Gary Holloway, founder of GMH Restaurant Holdings, the developer of The Point, promises that his Sea Isle project will be a unique attraction bringing a whole new vibe to the beach resort.
“I just think that when you take a building like this one in its current state and change it, it can only go up a thousand percent,” Holloway said of the transition from the now-dilapidated Springfield Inn to The Point.
Holloway said he plans to have the new outdoor bar ready in time for Memorial Day weekend, the traditional start of the bustling summer tourism season. However, he noted he still must secure the required regulatory permits before he begins construction.
In an interview at the Springfield Inn site Monday, Holloway said he has not yet completed the purchase of the property. He declined to disclose the purchase price.
The Springfield Inn, closed since fall 2019, had been on the market for $6.7 million. Its coveted beachfront location always made it a strong candidate for redevelopment. It is the only beachfront business in Sea Isle that has a liquor license.
The Bisciotti family has owned the Springfield Inn since it opened in 1972. Sisters Betsy Cooney, Terry Eidenberg and Joanne Bisciotti followed their parents, Joe and Liz Bisciotti, as the Springfield’s owners.
Sea Isle Mayor Leonard Desiderio thanked the members of the Bisciotti family for their contributions to the community and the decades of entertainment and memories that they provided for “many, many families” through their ownership of the Springfield Inn.
Desiderio expressed hope that GMH Restaurant Holdings will establish a similar reputation in the community with The Point.
“We welcome The Point of Sea Isle City to our community. We look forward to them stepping into the community’s shoes like the Bisciottis did for so many years,” he said.
City Councilman Frank Edwardi, whose demolition company, Pineland Construction & Recycling, is tearing down the Springfield Inn, recalled fond memories of the Bisciotti family, including growing up with Betsy Bisciotti, now Betsy Cooney.
“I knew the parents. They are a great family,” Edwardi said.
Edwardi called it a “sad day” that the Springfield Inn was being demolished. But he expressed confidence that Holloway and his company will do a “first-rate job” with their project.
The Springfield closed for good in September 2019 in anticipation that the property would be sold then to a Pennsylvania-based investment group that had proposed building a three-story complex featuring an outdoor bar, restaurant, banquet facility and condominiums on top.
However, that deal fell through in 2020, allowing Holloway and GMH Restaurant Holdings to step in as the new buyers last October. Holloway said he has “an exclusive letter of intent” to acquire the Springfield Inn from the current owners.
In the meantime, the closed-up bar began to deteriorate. Alarmed by the building’s blighted condition, the city issued a “Notice of Unsafe Structure” in October that ordered the Springfield’s current owners to either repair or demolish the property.
Before it was reborn as the Springfield Inn in 1972, the building served as the home of an Italian restaurant called Travascio’s. It was not immediately clear Monday exactly how old the building is, but by the end of the week, it should be completely gone.