OCEAN CITY – The Cork Bar was torn down this week after over a half a century in the same spot in a building dating back to the 1920s, but few tears were shed because the popular bar in the very heart of old town Ocean City will be back in a few months with a new physical shell but the same familiar faces, atmosphere and attitude.
For generations, the Cork Bar on Wicomico Street in the shadow of the Pier building and its towering Ferris wheel has remained relatively unchanged, while much of Ocean City has been erased and rebuilt again. Its old school charm and gritty attitude has flown in the face of an increasingly upscale new Ocean City and that will not change when the new Cork Bar emerges from the rubble left by the giant claws that tore it down this week.
The building, owned by the Dolle family of Dolle’s Candyland fame, will be rebuilt with a new and improved Cork Bar on the same ground level, but will have storage and office space on the second level and possibly a handful of apartments for employees. At some point down the road, some of the space over the new Cork Bar could be used for manufacturing and packaging for Dolle’s.
The bar itself will be rebuilt in its original shape with the same famous “coldest beer in town” and the same famous cast of characters serving it up, but will be enlarged somewhat to include a kitchen with food service and enlarged, improved bathrooms and other amenities, but the intent is to restore the Cork Bar.
“We’re going to have the same square bar, the pool table, the same lighting, and much of the same memorabilia on the walls,” said Billy Wilkins, whose family has owned and operated the bar, along with another old Ocean City family, for over 40 years. “The intent is to recapture the nostalgic feel the place has had for decades.”
According to Rudolph Dolle, whose family has been on the same corner on Wicomico Street and the Boardwalk since 1910, the building occupied by the Cork Bar has been standing since the 1920s.
Billy Wilkins has been working at the Cork Bar since 1979. His grandmother, Betty, and his parents, Gordon and Martha Wilkins, still own the bar.
The old Cork Bar was separated from the adjacent sub and sandwich shop, but the space will be included in the new facility when it re-opens next spring. The Cork Bar will offer food to its patrons out of a new kitchen right inside the bar.
“It’s going to be on the same level as it is now, but it will be enlarged,” said Wilkins. “It’s going to be not quite double the size …”