Rollicking music and raucous good times flowed freely during resort towns’ entertainment heyday

By Pam George
From the May 2015 issue

LB-barsphoto Those Were the Days (and Nights!) - Delaware Beach LifeBack in the mid-1980s, when cellphones were in their infancy, John Barczewski and his friends didn’t have trouble keeping in touch — they knew where to find each other on a Saturday night by the time on their watches. At 10 p.m., they met at Schultze’s. By 11 p.m., they were at Tijuana Taxi on Rehoboth Avenue, sipping golden margaritas. At midnight, they were at The Summer House, where they cheered on the “shrimpettes,” female patrons who were so short they could dance on the bar without hitting their heads on the ceiling fans.

Before 1 a.m., they called The Front Page on Baltimore Avenue so a bucket of Rolling Rock beers was waiting for them upon arrival. “We never strayed out of Rehoboth unless there was a band to see,” he recalls. “Dewey was otherwise foreign to us.”

That wasn’t the case for Tommy Cooper in the 1960s, when Dewey was “one big fraternity party,” he says. The Bottle & Cork was hopping, the Starboard was still a dive and there was a beach bonfire at the end of most streets. Cooper was underage in the early 1960s, but “you could get in most anywhere, if you knew the right people.”

Like Barczewski and Cooper, generations of beach tourists and residents fondly recall old coastal watering holes. There were taverns, dance clubs and restaurants that turned up the volume after the dinner hour. While a rare few are still buzzing, most are just memories, a misty collage of crooners, cocktails and stolen kisses between summer lovers. 

Putting on the Ritz
The beach and booze go way back. The Ryves Holt House in Lewes, built in 1665, was once a tavern. (It’s now the visitors’ center and museum gift shop for the Lewes Historical Society.) Simon Marriner owned another tavern, and his ledgers from 1799 to 1802 indicate that grog, toddies, ginger beer, brandy and cider were best-selling drinks.

Anglers Restaurant, built between 1936 and 1937, began as a private club for the Lewes Anglers Association. It later opened to the public. After Irish Eyes Pub & Restaurant purchased it in 1996, the original building later fell victim to arson.

Dewey Beach also has a long history of serving residents who wanted to wet their whistles. In 1937, Harry and Virginia “Ginger” Shaud purchased Jack’s Cafe for $7,500. By World 

War II, they’d renamed it the Bottle & Cork, and soldiers from Fort Miles came to dance to big band music and listen to jam sessions. In the 1950s, the Shauds instituted an afternoon “intermission” so staff could restock beverages and kick out the barflies. During operating hours, however, patrons in all establishments at that time were forced by law to stay seated while drinking; only servers could move libations between tables. 

Unlike today’s Bottle & Cork customers, those in the past dressed to the nines. That was also the case at Lou Ianire’s in Lewes, which opened in 1959 on Front Street and later moved to the site currently occupied by the Inn at Canal Square. Customers gussied up for dinner at 6 p.m. and stayed until 1 a.m. “People got into it,” recalled Carol Garner, Ianire’s daughter, in a podcast for the Lewes Historical Society. And so did Ianire, who hosted Hawaiian nights featuring out-of-town hula dancers. Sipping Wisniowka frappes — Polish cherry liquor, gin and lemon juice — patrons tapped their feet to the live music of Bill Haley and the Comets and the Ink Spots. Tommy Cooper remembers when Vic and the Versatiles played the restaurant. “It was so packed, you could hardly get in,” he says. 

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Editor’s note: This story will undoubtedly spark some memories about nightlife in coastal Delaware. If you’d like to share your own recollections, or want to mention nightspots we may have missed, email us at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. or join the conversation about this story on the Delaware Beach Life Facebook page (facebook.com/delawarebeachlife).

Visit facebook.com/TheRehobothFrontPage to view hundreds of photographs shot at The Front Page in its heydey.

 

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