Completely renovated, Laguna Grill & Rum Bar is fully capitalizing on its beachfront locale, much to the approval of locals and visitors alike.
BRIGANTINE, N.J. — Few establishments anywhere on the East Coast can match Laguna Grill & Rum Bar’s prime location, where patrons can literally step from the property’s perimeter and onto the beach in Brigantine.
So exceptional is the panoramic view and seashore ambience that attracting customers could probably have been achieved without much expenditure of energy or financial capital, but that’s not how business partners Tony Bruno and Rip Reynolds approached their investment.
They purchased the property last year and spent the better part of eight months refurbishing it front to back, upgrading not just the appearance but all other components as well, including an entertainment slate boasting some of the best musical talent in southern New Jersey.
“When you get a business like this started you’ve got to ask: ‘What are you selling in a nutshell?’” says Reynolds. “You’re selling an experience. People are on vacation. When you go to a resort there are some elements that remain a constant — the beach, the nice weather, palm trees, steel drum players — there’s a certain vibe that comes from the experience and that’s why you go.
“We have a short window here in New Jersey with the weather portion and all that, but I try to emphasize the other points with live entertainment all the time, a place where people can get something to eat or drink and make an afternoon out of it. It’s not just about serving food and moving you out of here. We want you to stay and enjoy.”
A veteran of the nightclub industry, Reynolds kept contact with many of the more sought-after local artists in the area, and was able to assemble a long list of talent in a relatively short time because of it. Musicians like Mike LeCompt (playing 5-8pm this Sunday, Sept. 2), Dr. Cheeko, Mike Crosson, the Mott’s Creek Pickers, Glen Eric, Teddy Fusco, Patty Blee and Ernie Trionfo are just a few of the bands/artists who appear there regularly, and will continue to in scaled-back schedule beyond the warm-weather months.
“I was in the nightclub business for a number of years before I got into the restaurant business, so a lot of these [artists] are people I’ve worked with in other places,” says Reynolds. “So for me it was a matter of maybe six or eight phone calls to get acts that, this late in the season, may have been difficult for others to assemble elsewhere. And the location certainly helps. From Long Beach Island down to Cape May, there’s not a lot of venues like this.
Dr. Cheeko's Island Soul (left) is a regular performer at Laguna Grill & Rum Bar.
“On a typical Friday I might have Dr. Cheeko outside [at what’s dubbed the Beach Bar] from 4-8[pm], Teddy Fusco from 8-midnight inside, and Glen Eric from 9:30-1:30[am] at the Barefoot Pub.”
The Barefoot Pub was once the lone component to the historic Brigantine Hotel [now called Legacy Vacation Resorts] before subsequent ownership added onto what is now the Laguna Grill & Rum Bar. Reynolds and Bruno brought back the Barefoot name out of nostalgia. There’s also a replica of Al McReynolds’ 78.8-pound striped bass (caught in Atlantic City, it was a world record that stood for nearly 30 years, broken last year by an 81-pound fish in Connecticut) hanging from the ceiling.
If the Eagles don’t improve on their 8-8 slate of 2011, or fail to make the playoffs for a second straight year, head coach Andy Reid will likely not return for a 15th season.
"We’ll probably scale it back primarily to weekends [after summer] but we’ll also be doing plenty of special events, private parties and fun things geared around the holidays."
"Each night when we do live music we turn the lights down around 10pm and it turns into a really fun rock ‘n’ roll vibe. It’s a great interactive environment.”
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