A local businessman who has built a positive reputation in Seaside Heights for the manner in which he runs a current restaurant and bar is expected to have the most stringent of conditions and restrictions lifted from his new establishment – the former Jax Garage bar on Sumner Avenue, which closed in 2022 amidst controversy and will be re-branded and renovated under new ownership.
Jax Garage, which carried the liquor license once attached to the Jack ‘N Bills bar that was destroyed in 2013 boardwalk fire, was owned by Louis Moscatiello, who has also shed his ownership of the former Aztec Bar on the boardwalk. The name of the now-shuttered venture came from the fact that the bar was opened in a converted automotive repair garage, with the former vehicle bay doors leading out to a patio area. The bar eventually became a source of complaints in the community, including frequent fights in the street, damage to vehicles, public urination and bass emanating loud enough from speakers to physically shake the windows of nearby buildings.
This led the council, before the 2022 summer season, to impose a slew of conditions on the bar’s liquor license aimed at keeping nuisance issues and other alleged illicit activities under control. They included:
- A camera system that covers all public areas of Jax Garage must be installed with live police access.
- An ID scanner must be used at the entrance.
- All managers of the establishment must register with the borough.
- One of the registered managers, whose identity is on file with the town, must be present on-site whenever the business is open.
- “Bar cards” must be held by all employees.
- No DJs will be allowed to perform on the outdoor deck.
- The outdoor deck must close by 11 p.m.
- Professional security must remain on-site for at least one hour after closing time.
Moscatiello immediately shut down the establishment and later sold the bar and the license, which is now in the hands of new owner Robert Ciliento, a well-known local entrepreneur who has already opened Drifter’s, regarded as a well-managed bar and grill that has gained a significant following since its opening two seasons ago.
Ciliento will rebrand Jax Garage as Seaside Social House, a sports bar that will serve pizza, other bar food bites and some of the signature cocktails from Drifter’s. The bar is expected to draw a different clientele as compared to Jax, which was known for its packed Thursday night parties and loud summer weekend bashes that drew crowds to gather on the sidewalk outside.
In addition to Drifter’s, Ciliento is known for running several local Playa Bowls locations (including in Lavallette), the “Pressed” waffle and coffee house in Ortley Beach, and serving on the board of directors of Northern Ocean County Habitat for Humanity. Seaside Social House is expected to reopen once interior renovations are completed, officials said.
“The council did the transfer a couple weeks ago, and we went out to the new place to see what he was doing and how it was going,” said Borough Administrator Christopher Vaz. “The set of conditions that were imposed on the last establishment were punitive. We told him that if he wanted to operate under different conditions to reach out and go over what he’s been doing to get the place ready and let us know where he might need some relief.”
The borough council, in a work session before its regular meeting, discussed lifting some of the license conditions and reached a consensus on the matter. The revisions to the license must be voted-on at a future meeting.
Vaz said Ciliento is planning to run the establishment differently than its former owner, though some restrictions on the license will remain. For example, no entertainment will be allowed outdoors or on the second-floor deck, which will still have to close at 11 p.m.
“He’s taking a lot of steps inside,” Vaz said. “The entertainment area is very small, under the steps, and it is not going to be facing west. The old owners also had huge speakers and they’ve been packed away.”
The Ocean County Tourism Department page recently featured a social media post on Seaside Social House, and said customers can expect “a fun, food-driven sports bar with some exciting cocktails and great food!”
Seaside Social House will be located at 116 Sumner Avenue.