OCEAN CITY — Two of the resort’s largest nightlife giants will close in January for substantial renovation projects, thusly creating an unprecedented moment for the Ocean City restaurant and club scene when both will be closed for an extended period of time.
Seacrets will close its doors on Jan. 3 for approximately six weeks as it will literally be raising the road on 49th Street almost three feet to combat frequent flooding that has historically occurred during heavy rain events in front of the main entrance.
“It’s the first time in our history [since 1988] that we will be closed for this long,” said Seacrets owner Leighton Moore. “Five or six weeks is a long time, but the fact that we are doing the distillery project, coupled with the time of year, we thought it was the right time to do them together.”
Seacrets’ new three-story, 12,000-square-foot distillery broke ground in late October and is scheduled to open in the spring, but Moore says it wouldn’t make sense to construct the distillery without fixing the flooding issues that occur in front of the main entrance of the bayfront establishment.
“I think in front of our entrance is one of the lowest points in Ocean City, and that’s including the downtown region which always floods,” said Moore, a former city councilman. “It’s no small endeavor to raise the street 2.8 feet, and it’s always tough when you have to close for any amount of time for construction, but it’s the right time of year to do it.”
Moore added that construction should be completed by President’s Day weekend in February. He assures customers that the bayside of 49th Street will be better than ever.
“There’s a whole lot of shaking going on at Seacrets right now”, he said. “It’s an exciting time.”
Eleven blocks north on the bayside of town, Fager’s Island is also planning a big capital improvement project, one that will see major improvements and renovations to its famous main bar area.
Fager’s Island General Manager Kevin Myers says the iconic bayfront restaurant won’t be closed for nearly as long as Seacrets.
“We should be closed for only a matter of weeks, weather permitting,” he said. “We wanted to stay open during construction, like how we’ve remained open during the renovations to our fine dining section that are going on currently, but since we are talking about the main bar, there’s no other option but to close for a short time.”
Myers says Fager’s will also eye President’s Day weekend, traditionally when the resort sees the most winter business, as the target date for re-opening, thusly putting the shutdown date for construction in mid-January.
Yet, while some may look at this as coincidental and strategically timed hiatus as a negative thing for the town’s nightlife options and the delicate seasonal economy as a whole, both Myers and Moore agree that the renovations point to a much more positive trend.
“It means that businesses are willing and able to reinvest in themselves now,” said Moore. “For the past few years, businesses have just been holding on and waiting to do something new to freshen up their business models for the locals and the visitors but we are here now.”
With the exception of a few days after Superstorm Sandy hit our region, this shutdown will mark the longest closure in decades for Fager’s Island as well.
“It’s the perfect time of the year to do a project like this,” said Myers. “We are looking at getting started after the Martin Luther King, Jr. holiday and we should have all our renovations finished by President’s Day.”
Moore called the road project a means to “retweak our main income source” but noted that the distillery is much more of a creation of a new income source.
“One will most certainly help the other,” said Moore, “but they are each going to be their own entities.”
Moore stressed, however, that despite the six-week closure at Seacrets, WOCM 98.1, which is the AAA format radio station that operates inside of the six-acre property that has become one of the most lucrative nightclubs in the country, will not be closing at all. Additionally, the Atlantic Beverage Center, located on Seacrets parking lot, will also remain open.
“I’ll make those guys swim to work if I have to,” joked Moore.
So while some residents and visitors may have to find another place to watch the Super Bowl, both Myers and Moore stress that the big takeaway in this ironic turn of events is more about what the region will inevitably gain in the long-term, rather than focus on the short-term loss.