WILDWOOD - Although the Shamrock Beef and Ale is slowly being dismantled and new owners are likely to have different plans for the site, memories of $1 beers, meeting a future spouse and listening to one-man band Billy Jack live on, as expressed by former patrons on social media.
As of July 19, the building, at 3700 Pacific Ave., in Wildwood, is no longer listed as active by Long and Foster, a real estate company, in Avalon. The 9,364 square-foot building, built in 1937, was listed for $999,900. Public records didn’t list a sale price.
“We are currently under contract,” said Joseph Byrne, co-founder of BG Capital, in Philadelphia, July 20.“There are confidentiality provisions in that contract, so there isn’t anything else I can share regarding this topic.”
The bar, owned by Tom Gerace, closed, along with its sister sites, Club Amnesia and Castaway's Pirate Bar, after it was charged with repeatedly violating restrictions placed on eating and drinking establishments during the Covid pandemic (https://bit.ly/2WaIwYJ).
In a May 8 interview with New Jersey News Network (https://bit.ly/3zl9YB3), Gerace said the state Division of Alcoholic Beverage Control (ABC) cited Club Amnesia and Castaway's with multiple violations last summer, resulting in a 100-day closure, from January-March 2021. The Shamrock was cited with one violation in March 2021, when a “bartender failed to socially distance from a table” and there were 10 chairs at a table instead of eight.
“Apparently, two people had pulled two more chairs over to the table, as we were only allowed eight people per table,” Gerace said. “It was one table out of 36; kind of ridiculous.”
Since all three venues operated under one liquor license, the compromise, according to Gerace, was to shut all three from May 1-Sept. 30, 2021. The ABC also wanted him to fire the management staff, among other conditions.
“We’re basically a bar. We can’t survive just serving food,” he said.
Closing during the busy summer, which presents the best opportunity to make money, meant not opening until the winter, which would result in the “loss of a lot of money,” according to Gerace.
Although, at the time of the May 8 interview, Gerace indicated he would reopen in the fall, by mid-June he was holding a liquidation sale at the Shamrock for anyone wanting a piece of history.
Multiple efforts to reach Gerace for this story were unsuccessful.
Preserving the Wildwoods, an advocacy-based committee of Partners in Preservation, a nonprofit organization devoted to supporting preservation efforts in Cape May County, listed the building in its 2021 survey of historic buildings of Pacific Avenue, but, according to President Taylor Henry, didn’t find out about its sale and demolition until the liquidation sale.
“There wasn't enough time for us to do much,” she stated, in an email.
The building may be the oldest tavern in Wildwood. According to Preserving the Wildwoods (https://bit.ly/3iCdfFx), it was originally the Berwind Hotel, until it was purchased by Irish immigrant Cornelius Ward, in 1937. It has been the Shamrock since then.
Since the closure and dismantling of the building, hundreds have been sharing memories of their times spent at the bar on various Facebook pages.
Danielle and Joe D’Aquila, of Mantua, were among those sharing memories from the bar. They met there 20 years ago and will be celebrating 17 years of marriage in November. They have three children.
“He is the love of my life,” Danielle D’Aquila said, “and every single day, I am so grateful that he is mine.”
Her husband, a freelance journalist, calls the Shamrock “a legendary place, mythic even, and a highly specific magical spot. In that exact spot, by those brass bars, just over 20 years ago, at least one life was changed forever... my best friend and love of my life was revealed to me by the universe.”
Hewrote, “I'm not usually prone to sentimentality, especially when it comes to places or things, but when I heard it was going away, it made me wonder. How many others had stories like ours? How many other lives changed direction as dramatically from that very spot, or at least from inside those walls?
“I don't know what path my life would have taken if it weren't for that spot, but I can say with all certainty that it would have been a worse one,” he continued. “I met a truly wonderful person that night, a kindred spirit, a good soul - one that would become my everything - my best friend, someone I look up to, someone I look to for guidance, someone I live for, someone I couldn't live without.
“That night, in that spot, is the division line - before it, there was just me, after, it was us - from that point on and for now and all times, that's the way it will be, and it all started there in a place that won't exist anymore.”
“Thank you, Shamrock, for being there as a place for us to start this romance and for those dollar pitchers. Sorry to see you go,” he added.
“I’m sad to see it go,” said Wildwood Mayor Peter Byron, “and the hundred-plus jobs with it.
“The only way to positively move forward, however, is to buy a whole block (on Pacific Avenue), demolish the buildings, and put in something nice,” he added. “I know people say they don’t want to lose the old Wildwood, but it was lost a long time ago. I wish we had a vibrant downtown to balance with the Boardwalk; where people could shop, eat, and gather, and then have a fun night on the Boardwalk. Pacific Avenue is basically a ghost street; we need other options.”
Byron indicated there was “a lot of misinformation out there,” and said the Shamrock property was not associated with parking for BG Capital’s project in the 3600 block of Pacific Avenue - a public pool bar on the ground level, with 74 housing units above it, marketed for J-1 students.
Those plans were initially approved without parking, but the state said it made a mistake and a Coastal Area Facility Review Act (CAFRA) permit was required, putting stringent conditions on the developer, including parking requirements (https://bit.ly/3otDb8K).
CAFRA is a requirement for coastal builders and requires a hefty application fee and lengthy approval process.
Byrne said his company applied for the CAFRA permit and expects one in 2021’s fourth quarter.
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