OCEAN CITY – The neighborhood tavern has become increasingly scarce of late, becoming overrun by nightclubs and chain restaurants, but Bill Sharp and Alex Laird have brought back that friendly, relaxed environment.
Scotty’s Bayside Tavern, located on Route 54 in Fenwick, just 3.8 miles from Coastal Highway, has been operating as a local, neighborhood tavern since Halloween of 2005.
With over 40 selections of beer, four pool tables, two shuffle bowls and nine TV’s, Scotty’s provides an ideal atmosphere for drinking, socializing, and relaxing with friends.
Although Scotty’s has become a huge success for Sharp and Laird, it is not the first business venture they have tackled together.
Laird and Sharp have not only been business partners for several years, but they have also been friends since childhood, growing up together in Wilmington, Del.
After spending years working in financial services, Laird decided to team up with his childhood friend and try his hand at the nightclub business. Soon after, they opened Porkies, which quickly become one of the biggest nightclubs in Wilmington. After five years of success, they decided to sell and move forward in their business ventures, opening three new bars called Bank Shots. After a few years of success, they decided to sell all three Bank Shots and move in a different direction.
A few years later, they decided to try their luck with the beach area.
“Bill always had a desire to come here,” Laird said, “so we decided to put our acts together and open another bar.”
The result was Scotty’s Bayside Tavern.
In January 2006, not long after Scotty’s Tavern opened, they decided to expand and open a second tavern called Gray Hare, located in Rehoboth.
“We wanted to create a place where people over 40 can come and have a good time,” Laird said.
According to Laird, by reviving the tavern atmosphere they hope to provide a place that isn’t too crazy or frenzied, a place where one can come and listen to good music but still be able to carry on a good conversation.
Laird said that there just isn’t any place for the “baby boomers” to hang out anymore, which is what inspired him to open Scotty’s and Gray Hare. With DJ’s and jukeboxes that don’t play post 1985 music, the taverns are aimed towards the 40 and over crowd.
According to Laird, Gray Hare has more of a nightclub feel than Scotty’s, but both places provide ample room for dancing.
“It looks like walking into one of the old nightclubs in Philly,” Laird said of a typical Saturday night at Gray Hare. “It certainly became the place to be in Rehoboth this winter.”
One of the unique aspects of Scotty’s Tavern is the traditional tavern quality that is preserved. Delaware still maintains a tavern’s license, allowing taverns to operate without serving any food. Laird couldn’t be happier with the situation.
“It makes it easier to run,” he said. “There’s no spoilage or food clean-up to worry about.”
If you’re wondering how they deal with hungry customers, the answer is simple, B.Y.O.F. or Bring Your Own Food.
“We like to brag that we have the best food on the beach,” Laird joked.
B.Y.O.F. has become ideal for big sporting events, Laird explained. People are encouraged to gather together to watch a game and bring a variety of appetizers. Laird said it provides diversity to a football party that may have normally been held at someone’s house, allowing for a variety in drink selection, entertainment and channel choice.
“It also solves the problem of cleaning up your house after the game,” Laird added.
Besides providing a good atmosphere, Scotty’s and Gray Hare provide a philanthropic service to society with their “guest bartender for charity” nights.
The guest bartender event, typically held on Thursday nights, allows for a group to come in and raise money for their charity of choice. For one to three hours, one or two people take turns behind the bar with the resident bartender. The only stipulation is that they bring five to 10 people in to the tavern to enjoy all that the bar has to offer. At the end of the event, Laird or Sharp write a check to the charity equaling the amount of tips earned.
“The generosity really catches on,” Laird said, citing one night at the Gray Hare in which $15,000 was raised.
For Laird, what he really enjoys is the friendly atmosphere that he has created. “It’s just a fun place to be, a place where you can come and relax and enjoy your friends,” he said.