Four years ago, Speakeasy owners Jake Marlin, Shane Herbert and Jamie Dowling waded through four feet of water in their small West End bar and restaurant after Hurricane Sandy hit.
Debris was floating around the bar and the smell of rotten seaweed and mold lingered. The three owners — all Rockaway Beach natives who met while working at bars and restaurants in Long Beach — looked at each other in disbelief, but no one dared say a word, they recalled. Instead, Dowling, 36, picked up a shovel and went to work on rebuilding.
“We fixed all of the things that needed fixing and addressed issues like flooring and proper plumbing; things that we may have not done if it weren’t for Sandy,” Dowling said.
Speakeasy, a cozy bar and food cove at 1032 W. Beech St., was one of the first West End businesses to reopen its doors after the storm. Speakeasy held its annual Christmas tree lighting on the rooftop just weeks after Sandy’s devastation, and the owners said that the reopening of the business helped boost local morale.
“At the time, we were small enough, so we were able to open up right away,” said Marlin, the chef, who also owns another popular eatery in the West End, Swingbelly’s Beachside BBQ. “We had great momentum going into it and were able to only benefit from the storm.”
In a community where elevated two-story homes are replacing damaged bungalows, Speakeasy, which is set to celebrate its tenth anniversary in March, is among the businesses that have endured after the storm.
When it first opened in 2007, Speakeasy was a modest bar with one room, nine tables and just four beer taps, Dowling said. After undergoing extensive renovations and an expansion after Sandy, however, Speakeasy has evolved into an eclectic two-room pub with an outdoor beer garden that attracts a loyal following with its specialty drinks, good food and atmosphere. Speakeasy also offers brunch and features live entertainment with local bands and artists, and can accommodate parties of up to 100 guests.
“We actually do very well in the winter because we have such a strong local following,” said Marlin, 38.
The name, of course, is a nod to Long Beach’s Prohibition era, when miles of uninhabited shoreline made it easy to move illegal alcohol.
The brick walls, adorned with historic photos of Long Beach from the 1940s, give the space a rustic, old-fashioned feel. Many customers come for the large selection of craft beers and dynamic menu, which includes the Prohibition burger and Speakeasy’s “famous” macaroni and cheese. Entrees include a Bloody Mary skirt steak with mashed potatoes and asparagus, and Tuscan shrimp with broccoli rabe, rigatoni and cream sauce, while appetizers range from the popular avocado fries to shrimp tempura with sweet chili mayo.
“Even when the ‘light’ goes off on Beech Street and the summer comes to an end, we still maintain a busy crowd,” said Herbert, 32. “We’re still here.”