A show of support for Swingbellys

Hundreds turn out for Project Pay it Forward’s fundraiser at the Saloon


Swingbellys, the popular West End barbecue joint that was seriously damaged during Hurricane Sandy, is hoping to reopen its doors by Memorial Day, thanks to support from the community that is helping the business rebuild.

“There’s no place like Long Beach that comes together when the chips are down,” said Swingbellys owner Sean Sullivan. “The support has been amazing.”

The Long Beach Surfer’s Association, along with Earth Arts, Swingbellys and the Janet Slavin law firm, launched Project Pay It Forward in January, a collaborative effort aimed at getting storm-ravaged Long Beach businesses rebuilt and off the ground. The organization helps one local business at a time by determining its needs — be it a fundraiser or just someone to help put up sheetrock in a gutted space — and then organizing volunteers to help do the work, or host an event to raise money. The hope is that once a business is restored, it will “pay it forward” and help the group with the next project.

The group held a fundraiser for Swingbellys at the Saloon on April 20, and more than 800 people turned out to show their support for the business.

LBSA President Billy Kupferman said that Sullivan and his crew have supported the community in the aftermath of Sandy, even as Sullivan dealt with the devastation to his own business. Swingbellys, located at 909 W. Beech St., held a number of barbecues for West End residents struggling after the storm, helped create a Shop Long Beach for the Holidays gift card drive and continues to give back through Pay it Forward. And Swingbellys is largely credited for saving Thanksgiving in Long Beach, when it served meals to approximately 2,000 residents who were displaced or dealing with damaged homes.

“Since the storm, the crew that got together around Thanksgiving and made that happen, it has created a bond between us where everybody has become involved to help the community,” Sullivan said. “It all kind of stemmed from that and it’s brought us all together.”