The long-range summer forecast from the Farmer’s Almanac predicts 2014 will be one of the hottest summers in the past decade, so expect people to head out to Rehoboth Beach in droves in the months ahead.
For those who do, some things may look a little different as a number of changes have come to the shops, restaurants and businesses in the gay-friendly beach resort town.
One difference is that smoking will no longer be allowed on the beach and only on a few designated areas on the boardwalk. While this may prove unpopular with some beachgoers, Rehoboth was the last holdout of Delaware’s major ocean resorts to ban smoking and City Commissioner Stan Mills was determined to make it happen.
First Street Station is being renovated for the first time since it went up nearly 20 years ago, with approximately 4,500 square feet of the northeast side of the building being demolished to make way for three new retail sites. Saying “so long” to the original space are Gallery Espresso and Maggio Shields Real Estate Café. Three new stores will occupy the new space — all with street-entry access.
Other renovations to First Street Station include the addition of a new roof, the installation of an HVAC system and the removal of the front catwalk, allowing a clear view to the courtyard.
Dance club Dive has opened at the site of the once-popular L Bar at 622 Rehoboth Ave.
“Yes, we are a ‘dive bar,’ but we consider ourselves a classy one,” says Christian Randolph, general manager of the new establishment and a former bartender at L Bar. “We are an ‘everybody bar’ and welcome anyone. We really see this as someplace that will be a favorite among the Rehoboth faithful.”
According to Patty Burkentine, membership representative for the Rehoboth Beach-Dewey Beach Chamber of Commerce, there are a number of new businesses and restaurants opening this summer.
Perhaps the most anticipated new restaurant of the season is Papa Grande’s Coastal Taqueria at Wilmington Ave., owned by Matt Haley who just won the James Beard Foundation’s 2014 Humanitarian of the Year award. Haley owns several popular restaurants in the area, including Lupo di Mare. Papa Grande’s will feature salads, tacos, quesadillas and more and is scheduled to open this month.
Cellar Door replaces Debacle at 20 Baltimore Ave., offering Southern cuisine with a Creole twist, according to the indispensible Rehoboth Foodie. The SandCrab Beach Bar will hold its grand opening on May 23 at 1 Baltimore Ave., situated on the ocean side of the Atlantic Sands Hotel and Conference Center, and boasting a swimming pool and sun deck.
The family-owned Ambrosia Restaurant & Wine Bar opened at 19 Wilmington Ave., and offers Italian and American cuisines; Otto’s Sandwich Shop serves up Philly-style subs at 4 North First St.; and Nonna’s Sweet Treats is taking over the Rehoboth Avenue spot next to Nicola’s that was last occupied by Capriotti’s Sandwich Shop, to dish out ice cream and delectable treats.
After several attempts, the Dewey Beer and Food Co., was granted permission to open a new brewpub at the site of the former Bubba’s Grill on Route 1, and it will be up and running in time for summer.
Changes have come to some old favorites as well.
The former Cloud 9, a beloved LGBT restaurant and lounge that closed in the fall of 2012, will find its home at 234 Rehoboth Ave., occupied by Lula Brazil, a new coastal Brazilian restaurant and Latin-flavor dance club, owned by Meg Hudson (a former partner in Wilmington’s Domaine Hudson).
Meanwhile, the Greene Turtle will find a second home on the beach at 52 Rehoboth Ave., once the home of Irish Eyes, which closed after 27 years in Rehoboth.
Specialty stores are abundant with Burkentine listing nearly three-dozen new shops opening up. Among them are the Olive Orchard, with owners Roy and Laura Eckrote bringing a fine selection of infused oils, a variety of balsamic vinegars and honey; Blooming Boutique at 216 Rehoboth Ave., owned by Michiko Seto, and offering shoes, handbags and other apparel items; and the jewelry store Shore Silver opening at 149 Rehoboth Ave., by the Gambacorta family with a mission statement that reads, “Shore Silver will do its very best to provide quality, affordable jewelry that will make you look good at prices that will make you feel good.”
Another newcomer is Miss Pixies By the Sea, a vintage store offering hard-to-find items at 40 Baltimore Ave. It’s a sister store to the D.C. location, a staple of the burgeoning 14th Street corridor.
“You never know what interesting item you’re going to find,” says owner Pixie Windsor, who offers a laundry list of things like carnival ride seats, matchbox cars, vintage glassware and old toys. “You may find something that brings back an old memory or discover something that will lead to a new one.”
Across the street at 39 Baltimore Ave. is the fabulous gay-owned R Squared home and design store featuring stylish décor and interior design services.
No car to get to Rehoboth? No problem. The upscale bus service DC2NY has changed its name to BestBus but the amenities remain top-notch: free Wi-Fi, bottled water, power outlets at each seat, movies and more. Visit bestbus.com for rates and schedules to Rehoboth.
Several events will be sponsored by CAMP Rehoboth, the local LGBT community center, which is celebrating its 24th anniversary. There’s the Black & White Beach Ball on May 31, a cruise party on July 18 and the popular Sundance Auction on Aug. 30 and Sundance party on Aug. 31.
Of course, the main two beaches that attract an LGBT crowd are Poodle Beach at the south end of the boardwalk and Gordon’s Pond in Cape Henlopen State Park, north of town.
And many gay-friendly Rehoboth staples are open for the 2014 season, including Blue Moon (35 Baltimore Ave.), where “Queen of Rehoboth” Pamala Stanley opens the season on May 25; Aqua Grill (57 Baltimore Ave.), which opens May 16; Purple Parrot (134 Rehoboth Ave.), where the always-fun Biergarten is also open; Dos Locos (208 Rehoboth Ave.), with its awesome margaritas; and Café Azafran (18 Baltimore Ave.) and its incomparable, tres chic bartender Holly Lane.