Annual ‘Dude Dinner’ Marks Local Guys’ Unofficial Start of Summer

May 31, 2017

A tradition of 11 years was upheld this holiday weekend when 29 gentlemen dressed in their Island-y finery – Hawaiian shirts, neckties, shorts and flip flops, a send-up of the “tacky tourist” stereotype – gathered at the home of Brian Coen in Ship Bottom and loaded 29 bicycles on a trailer, destined for Beach Haven for the annual Dude Dinner. It’s a night out in celebration of summer, community and brotherly love – no ladies allowed.

Since the beginning, the group has grown in several ways: in number, from seven to 29; in life experience, with many getting married and starting families along the way; and in maturity. Make that last one a “maybe.”

Many of the guys grew up on LBI or have always summered here. The group includes CPAs, tradesmen, teachers, a Naval engineer and a professional football player. (No, seriously. Southern Regional grad Clark Harris is a long snapper and tight end for the Cincinnati Bengals.)

Just about all are fulltime locals, a concept that may come as a surprise to visitors, who don’t always realize the Island has a year-round community, Coen explained. The place doesn’t shut down after Labor Day, he said. To some people, LBI is home, and they enjoy summer as much as the vacationers do, though their free time may be confined to weekends, before office hours or between shifts.

The guys laugh at one reaction they hear, which is “Oh, you guys get together once a year, how nice,” because the reality is they get together all the time. It’s just once a year they go all out with the formalities.

Historically they have picked a different BYO restaurant each year, but for the last two they have had the event catered by the Blue Water Café. The plan was to dine in the secluded courtyard behind the Sink ’R Swim Men’s Shop, but when the rain started, they relocated the whole operation to the other side of the building and ate on the sidewalk under the entryway awning. Spirits were not dampened a bit, according to Coen.

Under drier conditions they would have mounted their bikes and formed a boy brigade to go bar hopping through town, but, given the wet weather, they opted to Uber.

After dinner, the group headed to the Sea Shell resort nightclub, where Mike Boyle, son-in-law of owner Tom Hughes, had hooked everyone up with VIP passes. They partied while the band Friend Zone performed to a “decent crowd,” Coen said.

While one family man in the bunch bowed out early – if by conscious choice was unclear – LBI Hot Spring Spas’ Jack Dennis, fully committed to the cause, biked home in the rain and got totally drenched.

— Victoria Ford


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