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End of An Era: Surf Club Liquor License To be Sold to Mall Brewpub

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The former Joey Harrison's Surf Club in Ortley Beach, July 2018. (Photo: Daniel Nee)
The former Joey Harrison’s Surf Club in Ortley Beach, July 2018. (Photo: Daniel Nee)

If there was any remaining hope that a Jersey Shore landmark would be rebuilt for another generation, it’s now all but gone. The liquor license for Joey Harrison’s Surf Club in Ortley Beach could be transferred to a chain seeking to build a new restaurant outside the Ocean County Mall.

Toms River Township Council will decide on the person-to-person transfer of the liquor license to BJ’s Brewhouse, which is planning a 10,000 square-foot bar and restaurant pad site at the Ocean County Mall on Hooper Avenue.

The former Joey Harrison's Surf Club in Ortley Beach, July 2018. (Photo: Daniel Nee)
The former Joey Harrison’s Surf Club in Ortley Beach, July 2018. (Photo: Daniel Nee)

According to the township clerk’s office, the sale of the liquor license is $723,000.

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A national chain, BJ’s is based in Huntington Beach, California, and is eyeing its second location in New Jersey, under plans approved by the township earlier this year.

The restaurant will not be based inside the mall itself, rather, the company is planning to construct a 9,947 square foot, 32 foot tall building at a pad site on the mall property.

BJ’s Brewhouse bills itself as a California twist on Chicago-style pizza, with a full menu of burgers and sandwiches, and an emphasis on craft beer. It also features a deep-dish cookie dessert, which they call a “pizzookie.”

Joey Harrison’s Surf Club, the longstanding oceanfront beach club, was heavily destroyed in Superstorm Sandy and several years later saw its demolition. The lot remains leveled, but the liquor license has been held in pocket by New Surf Club, the licensee.

The sale would transfer the liquor license from New Surf Club to BJ’s Brewhouse ahead of the construction of its Toms River restaurant. BJ’s Brewhouse has not announced on its website a timeline for opening.

The former Joey Harrison's Surf Club in Ortley Beach, July 2018. (Photo: Daniel Nee)
The former Joey Harrison’s Surf Club in Ortley Beach, July 2018. (Photo: Daniel Nee)

Ortley residents have been inquiring at township council meetings as to what might be done with the now-vacant lot of the Surf Club, even asking if the township would consider buying it as open space. With rumors about whether the owners plan to present the lot as condominium housing, residents have pointed out the boardwalk and township ocean beach ends at the lot border with Joey Harrison’s. Previously, Councilman George Wittmann said the idea was out there but would be an expensive addition to the township’s open space making the idea less feasible.