For years, the former Mantoloking Road Pub Kitchen was “a bar that happened to sell food.” Now, after a few years under the ownership of Brick Township’s Zarrilli family, it’s a restaurant that happens to have a bar, owner Anthony Zarrilli explained to the township’s planning board this week.
With a new name, the Mantoloking Road Alehouse, came a new concept and atmosphere.
“We became heavily involved in the township, we know a lot of people and are involved in a lot of organizations … it’s a neighborhood restaurant now,” said Zarrilli, who was before the board to propose a permanent, large outdoor seating area after it became so popular with patrons during the coronavirus pandemic.
For restaurant owners, a permanent outdoor seating area consists of much more than just setting up some umbrellas and picnic tables outside. It requires planning beyond the makeshift setups authorized temporarily during the pandemic, plus an eye toward safety. In the case of Mantoloking Road Alehouse, professionals hired by the restaurant told board members the outdoor seating area would include protection from traffic on Mantoloking Road, a graded berm, screening and landscaping. A grassy surface would be at least partially replaced by stone, and more substantial, aesthetically-pleasing outdoor furniture would welcome customers.
Outdoor dining, in many ways, became what the restaurant was known for in the summer after its evolution under new ownership.
“When he bought it, it was about 80-20 liquor-to-food [sales], but now it’s overwhelmingly food,” said attorney John Jackson, who was representing Zarrilli. “One of the silver linings that has come out of the Covid experience has been the popularity of al fresco dining. It really puts no strain on the existing resources. When it’s beautiful outside, people are not going to fill up the inside, and vice versa. By and large, the whole plan is to have the outdoor seating kind of take the place of the indoor seating on nice nights.”
The plan pitched by the restaurant calls for about 120 outdoor seats and a practical expansion of the kitchen.
“So many people said to us, ‘I hope we can continue to enjoy this,'” Zarrilli recalled. “The governor authorized it to continue for another summer, but we wanted to come here and see what we have to do to make this permanent.”
Zarrilli said the restaurant’s current hours are 12 noon to a final seating at 9 p.m., with the bar closing afterward.
The board approved the outdoor seating expansion plan in a unanimous vote.