By John Burton
SEA BRIGHT – Tim McLoone's Rum Runner is coming back.
McLoone, the restaurateur and musician, this week said his first eatery, overlooking the Shrewsbury River at 816 Ocean Ave., will be rebuilt and, hopefully, ready for business in early 2015. The Rum Runner, flooded and wrecked by Super Storm Sandy, has been closed since the storm hit 14 months ago.
Last week, the state Economic Development Authority (EDA) gave its confirmation to approve a loan that will allow McLoone Management to move forward with the rebuilding, McLoone said.
The future of the waterfront restaurant certainly was in question, he acknowledged.
The location was hit hard by the Oct. 29, 2012 storm that blew through the area. The restaurant's outside deck was swept into the Shrewsbury River and the storm surge pushed about 5 feet of water into the structure.
"It caused a lot of damage, as you can imagine,” McLoone said.
Following the devastation, McLoone Management evaluated its options on what to do with the site.
"We received a lot of offers to sell it," McLoone said. "We thought the smarter thing to do was to hold still and see how things started playing out.
"Initially, we hoped the building was salvageable," he said, "but then we realized it wasn't."
Another obstacle in moving forward, McLoone noted, was the final insurance payout for the restaurant. Even though he received the maximum Rum Runner was entitled to under the policy, it was less than half of what would have been needed to rebuild. With the insurance money alone, "it wouldn't have been possible" to return, he said.
The EDA loan, which comes interest-free for two years, "will enable us to put a new building there," he said.
McLoone noted the efforts of his financial officer, Kristy Hensle, Tim McMahon, president of McLoone's Restaurant, and Lt. Gov. Kim Guadagno, in obtaining the EDA loan.
The new restaurant is expected to cost between $3 million and $4 million and will be elevated 10 feet to offer some protection from flooding. It will feature an outside deck with bar and dining areas that are expected to accommodate about 80 people. Instead of rebuilding a large banquet room, which had been able to hold about 150 people, the interior will have two smaller rooms, each capable of seating about 60, according to McLoone.
The overall structure actually will be smaller than its predecessor, going from about 13,000 square feet to "just north" of 10,000 square feet, he said. The reduction in square footage and capacity will allow for some additional parking on the site, he said.
Of the nine restaurant locations that bear his name, McLoone noted Rum Runner is the only site where his management company owns the property. It was his first restaurant; he took ownership of it on New Year's Eve 1987. "I felt it was important to hold onto something we owned outright," he said.
But more importantly, "there's a lot of history in that site," he said, explaining he met his wife there; many friends and others had weddings and other significant life events there; plus Bruce Springsteen and Jon Bon Jovi have stopped in to perform over the years.
Another factor in moving forward with this plan is "I really feel an obligation to support Sea Bright, given how they've supported us," he said. He believes that retaining a ratable for the community so hard hit by Sandy is important.
McLoone hopes to have his application before the borough planning board by February.
Board approval at that time would mean shovels in the ground by March or April, with construction estimated to be completed by late 2014, he said.