Jim Fowler built, managed, owned and expanded a south-end Brigantine establishment that’s been an island mainstay for over 20 years.
Jim Fowler, owner of St. George’s Pub in Brigantine, and Jorge Penagos, his head chef, combine for more years working in the hospitality industry than the average life expectancy, and that’s a selling point Fowler seems most proud of. He’s been successful by recognizing quality, identifying what people want most, surrounding himself with talent and work ethics that meet his high standards, and giving back to a community that backs up his business ventures.
Fowler’s history in hospitality is family rooted, and predates by a long stretch his building, managing, co-owning and owning outright St. George’s Pub, which debuted in 1991 and is among the longest-tenured residents — if not the longest — in the Brigantine Towne Center.
Recently, when local banks balked at financing due to a down economy, and bureaucratic red tape threatened an expansion project that would double St. George’s seating capacity and give it a state-of-the-art kitchen, Fowler tracked down a friend in financing who helped get the $300,000 job done. A new menu was brought in by Penagos, a master chef by anyone’s standards who’s created the kind of delicacies you might not expect to find in such an unassuming establishment.
Lately St. George’s has also bolstered its entertainment slate. Currently a revolving list of the area’s top local entertainers performs in the main bar area every Friday night, starting with mellow classics around 6pm that blend well with the dinner crowd, then morphing into a more nightlife-ish feel later in the evening. Last Friday (March 2) it was Jesse Boyington, a singer/acoustic guitarist who’s been popular in the area for over 30 years, and this Friday (March 9), songstress extraordinaire Patty Blee returns to perform in the town in which she was raised.
“The entertainment has gotten better and better — it’s gone off the chart,” says Fowler, a charter-boat captain on the side whose fresh-caught tuna often ends up in Penagos’ culinary creations. “This Friday night is Patty Blee, a local girl from Brigantine who’s really made a name for herself [having just released her third CD, From the Inside] and has opened for some big-time headliners [among them Martina McBride, Pat Benatar, Boz Scaggs, Gregg Allman, Soozie Tyrell and others]. We’re really looking forward to that, and we’ve got her booked for several other nights down the road along with Brian Smallwood [March 16], Mike Lupis [March 23] and Jeff Hornberger [March 30].”
St. George’s does a Quizzo night every Wednesday (starting 9pm), and while live music is currently contained mainly to Friday nights, that may be expanded to other nights during the busier summer months, or for certain special events. Fowler and his wife, Shirley, are actively involved in fishing tournaments that raise money for cancer research, such as the Greater Atlantic Bluefish Tournament (celebrating 25 years on June 2), and the Ladies Invitational Bluefish Tournament (28th year, June 16), the latter of which has seen Fowler’s 35-foot Carolina Classic Taildancer compete in every one of the first 27 tournaments.
On Saturday, March 17, St. George’s will host a St. Patrick’s Day bash with live bagpipers, and on Saturday, March 31, a full band will be on hand to celebrate Brian Smallwood’s birthday. Performing in that group will be guitarist and longtime St. George’s pub manager Paul Strong, who says bringing regular live music back to the pub has been very well received so far.
“We’ve had some really good crowds,” says Strong. “A few might have been here anyway, but it’s definitely helped to bring out some people who just enjoy live entertainment. It’s just been something nice to be able to provide for our clientele.”
St. George's Pub
Where: 4282 Harbor Beach Blvd., Brigantine
When: Open 24 hours. Live music Fri., March 9, Patty Blee, 6pm; Fri., March 16, Brian Smallwood, 6pm; Sat., March 17, St. Patrick’s Day party, 1pm; Fri., March 23, Mike Lupis, 6pm; Fri., March 30, Jeff Hornberger, 6pm.
Brick House Pub & Grille has live music most Friday nights and a slew of other ongoing enticements throughout the fall.
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