Terrace Tavern Gets New Look for New Season in New Chapter of History

By VICTORIA FORD | May 02, 2018
Photo by: Jack Reynolds

What’s old is new again as the Terrace Tavern prepares to reopen for the 2018 season on May 4. Interior renovations have updated the look, enhanced efficiency and added a few surprises, including new head chef, Rich Schobel.

Owners Toby and Michael Sweeney purchased the restaurant (and its sister restaurant, the Oyster House, next door) last year from Toby’s parents, the Eisenbergs. Last summer was their first time running the show.

With the help of builder Tom Horleman, who, as a former bartender at the tavern had key insider knowledge about how to streamline and improve the functionality behind the bar, they’ve transformed “dead zones” into functional spaces, increasing shelving for storage and seating for patrons.

Toby Sweeney describes it as a modern take on authenticity and age-old traditions, and the symbolism is everywhere. The décor is an eclectic blend:

“Historic landmark.” During the renovation work, a portion of the building’s original brick chimney was uncovered, along with remnants of the old name Ma Reece’s on a former exterior wall, from when it was a speakeasy in the 1920s. The eatery, which had been open during the Prohibition, obtained the first liquor license issued on LBI after the act’s repeal, Toby said, suggesting alcohol had been served there illegally. In her research, “I couldn’t get anyone to tell me it wasn’t a speakeasy,” she added with a laugh.

“Outdoorsy/Americana” with hunter/fisherman themes. Fishing poles double as curtain rods, the bar top is quartz (“I love the feel of stone,” Toby said), and on the walls are a Texas-mount skull of a deer Mike killed and a mounted deer head that Toby’s dad, Steve Eisenberg, likes to joke he “shot” in Manhattan – at an auction. The walls have been redone in shiplap. A lobster trap serves as a showcase for retail merchandise, i.e. shirts and tote bags bearing the Terrace Tavern logo. (A $100 takeout order earns a free canvas reusable tote!) Succulent displays in giant oyster shells in the front windows lend a “coastal desert” vibe that somehow works. Also: Tullamore Dew on tap.

“Beach-y nostalgia.” Adorning the walls on the front of the building, Mike’s old surfboard (painted to look like an American flag) and a rusty beach cruiser are mounted up and repurposed as flower planters – enduring symbols of beach life, with new growth coming through. Old photos, like the one of Toby and Mike catching bluefish on the beach when they were 10 years old, and others way before their time, will be reprinted onto metal and hung above the bar. “We’re just trying to tell the story,” she said. “And I think the story here is deeper than I ever thought.” An antique wooden figurehead like one from the prow of a boat, an artifact from a bar in New York where Mike’s dad used to bartend, surveys the tavern from her perch in a corner, her modesty protected by a bikini top.

“Midcentury/industrial/space age hipster”? Silver barstools and cherry red dining chairs are left over from the last drastic renovation the Eisenbergs had done after Superstorm Sandy. The Tully tap’s pull handles were designed by the plumber and fashioned from real metal faucets so it can “flow like water,” Toby kidded. Those pipes match the pipe brackets on the overhead shelves behind the bar. Meanwhile, a high-tech internet-connected SELFIE STATION, a.k.a. Buzzy Booth, is sure to be all the rage on LBI this summer. Now memories can be captured, shared and printed out from the easy-to-use Buzzy Booth, complete with beauty ring for glamour shots, and a Canon Selphy printer. It’s the new version of the Polaroid wall the tavern had for so many years, Toby said – minus the pushpin holes in the eyes.

“Local treasures.” Artist Cheryl Syminink, the same artist who last year chalk-painted the evolution of the flamingo logo from 1986 to 2017 on one long wall in the north dining room, has created a sea glass mosaic archway between that dining room and the bar area. The sea glass, from the Sweeneys’ personal collection and some that was donated, like the driftwood piled on top of the whiskey barrel in the front window, represents the souvenirs people take home and treasure, not unlike the memories they make at their favorite Island taproom.

In the restaurant business, as in all aspects of her life, Toby is always asking herself, “How can we make this system better, more efficient? How can we make everyone happier?” With regard to lessons learned from last summer, some key concepts are daytime operations; diligent record keeping, data analysis and numbers control; and great management overlay.

The layout of the tables in the dining room, which she remembers dancing around as a bus girl at age 11, has changed for customer comfort and better foodservice flow.

She and Mike are proud to say they are supporting visa workers, and happy that the vast majority of last year’s staff will be returning this summer.

The restaurant is also proud to partner with the One Less Straw Pledge, a campaign started by two teenage siblings in 2016 (, whereby guests receive drink straws only upon request. Servers will wear buttons with the logo and reminder. The information will also be posted in the restrooms.

— Victoria Ford

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