HAZLET –A “catastrophic event” is how Mike Mariolis describes the flooding damage caused by a burst pipe on Jan. 23 at the restaurant most recently known as The Park Tap & Grill.
Mariolis, 72, of Hazlet owns the property at 3352 Route 35, but leases the restaurant. He wasn’t there when the alarm triggered a response from the fire department, the water company and JCPL on that Wednesday at 1 p.m. But he saw the aftermath.
“It was in the upstairs room. The sprinkler froze and cracked. The water fell into the banquet room and then into the ground level and caused very extensive water damage. It was a lot of water,” he said.
Now identified as Slab Bar & Grill, according to the fire department’sreport, the restaurant had been closed and was under renovation by its current leaseholders. The lease and liquor license are held by Heilongjang Barn LLC. Listed as equal partners on the consumption license papers are Soo Kang of Allendale, Nj; Jonathan Son of Santa Ana, California and Xiang Feng Yin, whose address is in Nanjing, of the Jiangsu province of China. Their attorney is Glenn H. Gorman of Mahwah.
Everyone is waiting on what the insurance company will say. There is 11 months left on the lease, said Mariolis. “Nothing can happen until the insurance is finally done and nothing can happen until the person who owns the lease either runs out of time or makes me an offer I can’t refuse,” said Mariolis.
“Now I’m just as eager as everyone else to see how all this plays out,” he added.
Situated at the corner of Route 35 and Holmdel Road, the 10,000 square foot pub and restaurant long known as the Shore Point Inn has recently lured many business owners who think it’s a great location for food and drink.
It also attracts strip mall developers who like its roadside exposure and proximity to a jughandle. Mariolis says he hears at least once a week from a retail developer who wants the location. “I get calls from developers who want to tear it down and build in the back of the parking lot.”
Retail would probably be easier. A long string of owners can attest to the difficulty to finding that perfect recipe for liquor, food and buzz. In July, the current leaseholders had closed The Park and were hoping to a Blue Moon Mexican Café franchise would take over, but that deal fell through, said Mariolis.
Back in 1952, Mariolis’ father, known as Mike Mariolis Sr., purchased the building as The Old Dutch Tavern from a German family. He kept the converted farmhouse for two years before remodeling it, adding the motel next door, and changing the name to The Shore Point Inn. “This was before the Parkway. So, all the signs in North Jersey pointing you in the direction of the Jersey Shore said ‘Shore Points.’ He thought that was fitting.”
Mike Mariolis Sr.’s timing was perfect. A few years after he purchased the property, Hazlet’s population exploded from a quiet rural farming community to a bedroom community with planned developments for young families all over town.
The restaurant burned down in 1965, and was rebuilt, re-opening in 1967. After his father retired, sons Mike and Nick Mariolis ran it together until they worked out a deal, leaving Mike the restaurant and Nick the associated motel and other property. Nick Mariolis is now developing the modest motel into a larger and modernized hotel called The Country Inn.
Mike Mariolis Jr. ran and managed the Shore Point onsite for decades, until he decided to step aside. It was leased out to Sea Bright restaurateurs, who ran it as The Cove. From there it became the Sea Gull, then the Steak Exchange, Legends, until new owners came in and to transform it into the trendy, lively sports pub/restaurant/nightclub known as Park East.
“They were very successful. The problem is they were too successful.” There were too many incidents for the police involving young people and too much booze, and eventually Park East had to close in 2013.
Mariolis has watched restaurateurs come and go, expecting to “hit the jackpot” at the old Shore Point Inn. He has opinions about the follies of focusing too much on cocktails instead of good meals.
He even sounds a little wistful about returning to the life of a restaurant management.
“My wish would be, instead of being 72, I would be 22 and start all over again. I would go back to running a real restaurant,” he said.
This story has been updated to correct a prior name of the restaurant. It was once known as The Seagull, not The Seagull’s Nest.