Ocean City’s Clam Bar will be demolished to make way for more parking spaces | Local News

OCEAN CITY — After 42 years as Spadafora’s restaurant and clam bar and decades more like several other businesses, the little white restaurant at 843 Atlantic Ave. is about to be demolished.

Company owner Thomas Spadafora still had a year left on his lease for the building, but had asked to be released from the lease for that year. He said Friday he plans to focus on his seafood market at 932 Haven Ave., moving clam bar operations there instead.

The restaurant was the original location, but in recent years it has served more as a satellite, he said, supported by the nearby seafood market.

The city owns the Atlantic Avenue property, which it acquired from the Schilling family in 1999. According to Spadafora, he originally rented the restaurant from Helen Schilling, who owned extensive real estate holdings in the city. He said he had nothing against the city as the owner.

“The city has been good to me. I am happy,” he said. But it’s increasingly difficult to find summer employees, he said. Last year, he closed the business in August, citing a lack of help.

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“We decided to just do the fish market,” he said. “We’re going to move the whole operation.”

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Spadafora plans to offer more outdoor seating this year at the Haven Avenue location near the historic Ocean City train station, where it owns the building. It also plans to extend hours and offer lunch and seafood delivery, which it has never done before.

City business administrator George Savastano reported the change to city council Thursday night, describing it as a “win, win.”

The city plans to demolish the structure and expand the Ninth Street parking lot near the boardwalk, the preservation of which was the primary motivation for purchasing the property in 1999. Revenue from the parking lot will exceed the amount the city has obtained from the lease, he said. .

According to city spokesman Doug Bergen, the city received $30,849 per year for the property under the current five-year lease. The city plans to develop at least 10 spaces where there is now a building and parking for customers. Each space in the adjacent lot fetches about $3,800 per season, Bergen said.

The city doesn’t like losing a restaurant, Savastano and Bergen said, but in this case, they don’t mind much.

“I think everyone would agree he’s seen better days,” Savastano said.

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On Friday, Spadafora was emptying equipment from the building and selling some items to other businesses, including trays, plates and other equipment. He said it made sense to combine businesses, especially with the increasing difficulty in finding workers.

“There has been a paradigm shift in this city. There are no college students. There are no flop houses. Colleges all start early. And right now there are no foreign students,” he said. “It’s almost impossible to find people.”

In other years, thousands of college students worked in coastal towns each summer, cramming into cheap housing and earning money for school expenses while spending their days at the beach. It’s much harder to find affordable options in Ocean City and other resorts in the summer, and over the past two years, COVID-19 has dramatically reduced the number of foreign student workers who have been in the area. with J-1 visas, allowing them to work seasonally.

Spadafora said he made an offer on the lease once the city took over the property.

He estimates that the small square building was built around 1910. It has served as a hot dog stand, a real estate agency and several types of food operations. It was the chicken coop for 25 years and at one point the late Ambassador Bill Hughes operated a business there. Hughes represented the 2nd congressional district for 20 years.

Council unanimously approved a motion to terminate the lease.

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