OCEAN CITY – A resort sports bar and restaurant will celebrate its 20th anniversary with a year of festivities.
Starting this weekend, Buxy’s Salty Dog Saloon on 28th Street bayside will kickstart a year-long celebration of its 20th anniversary.
Since 1999, Buxy’s Salty Dog has called itself a home away from home for locals and tourists alike. From its humble beginnings, the saloon has grown to include a full-service bar and restaurant featuring live entertainment, sports action and more.
Doug Buxbaum, owner of Buxy’s Salty Dog Saloon, came to Ocean City in the 1980s and learned the ins and outs of the local restaurant industry working as a seasonal bartender. By the 1990s, however, he was ready to open a bar of his own and had set his sights on the original Salty Dog.
“I was in the right place at the right time, and the Salty Dog was available,” he said.
But for Buxbaum, purchasing the bar came with its challenges.
“I remember I couldn’t get a loan from anywhere in town,” he said. “But I had money saved and my parents put their house up as collateral. That gave me a driving force, and that first year I worked 20 hours a day to get the place up and running.”
Once home to Channing’s Way, Bayside Pub and Flipside, to name a few, Buxbaum said the Salty Dog needed some improvements.
“It was a rougher bar at that point,” he said. “We just gave it some love and attention.”
What was once home to pool tables, popcorn and draft beer quickly transformed into a full-service establishment. Buxbaum also recalled some of the bar’s earlier successes.
“In the beginning, we did $500 in food one day, and we were all high fiving like we’d just hit it big,” he joked.
As the business grew, so did its collection of memorabilia, photos, signs and sports gear from Pittsburgh and western Pennsylvania, where Buxbaum was raised.
“When we first opened, the walls were bare, so I wanted to put a little flavor of Pittsburgh in it …,” he said. “Around the third year, we put a dog wearing a Steelers jersey on a T-shirt, and it sold. We knew we were onto something, and it wasn’t just the Steelers theme. It was the whole Pittsburgh, western Pennsylvania theme. It really took off.”
Buxbaum noted the comfortable atmosphere and friendly service played a large role in establishing the Salty Dog as a hometown tavern.
“I think once we get you in here, you feel comfortable,” he said. “We’re known for good food, a great atmosphere, friendly service, top-notch entertainment throughout the year and community-oriented events.”
Despite industry changes, and an economic downturn in the late 2000s, Buxbaum said the Salty Dog has kept pace with the customers’ needs and desires. In 2017, for example, he expanded his offerings and opened Dry Dock 28 – a fast, casual eatery – next door to his bar.
“It has given us an opportunity to expand on our menu and have two great places at one location,” he said. “We have a lot to offer, from lobster tail to pretzel bites and everything in between.”
Buxbaum attributed years of success at the Salty Dog to his loyal staff and supportive family.
“I’m proud of what my staff and family have accomplished,” he said. “I couldn’t have done it without them. They are a vital part of this operation.”
He also highlighted the community’s support.
“The thing I really enjoy, and I say it at least 10 times a day to customers, is the community we live in,” he said. “People take it for granted, but we have a close-knit, giving community and they look out for everyone.”
With 20 years of business under his belt, Buxbaum said he is excited for what the future will bring.
“I know there is another chapter out there,” he said. “It’s like reading a good book, but the end is not near yet.”
To celebrate its 20th anniversary, the Salty Dog will offer live entertainment and specials on the 20th of each month throughout the year. This weekend, for example, the bar will kick off the celebration with performances by the West King String Band on April 19 and Muskrat Lightning on April 20.
Muskrat Lightning’s gig on Saturday will serve as an album release party starting at 9 p.m. before the band hits the road this summer in support of Texas Toast including the Jellyfish Festival in Ocean City. The album serves as a homage to The Band and The Grateful Dead and features Sonny Martin, Skip Maisel, John Sybert, Otto Grundman and Nick French.
“We are going to make the most out of this 20-year celebration,” Buxbaum said.
For more information, visit www.buxys.com or the Buxy’s Salty Dog Saloon Facebook page.