How it all began
It’s been voted the home of the best hamburgers according to Jersey Shore Restaurant Week judges two years in a row. It’s been voted the best Friday happy hour location in the US. It’s been listed as one of the top clubs in the country according to industry leader, Nightclub and Bar Magazine, for over a decade. It’s won more local awards than we can count. Its name is Bar Anticipation, more commonly called Bar A.
Many know the giant, which Bar Anticipation has become under the current management and ownership team since the 90’s. But what most don’t know is how it all began. Bar A’s legend-filled history is just as interesting as the crowds it draws, and when MetNights got to talk to owner Reggie Hyde (he doesn’t do many interviews) about the bar’s incredible history, our minds were blown.
When people think of Bar Anticipation, they most likely remember the massive wooden panels in the main building, the bungalow-like exterior, and the many trees that seem to obscure the bar from prying eyes. Believe it or not, part of the old-school décor dates back to the early 1900’s, when it was known as the Pine Grove Inn. Prior to the 1980’s, Bar Anticipation was simply a local secret, where everyone knew everyone.
That all changed when five partners teamed up to buy the bar, and turn it into the best spot in town. A local bar owner by the name of Henry Wright introduced Reggie and his brother Dickie to fellow entrepreneur Frank Marshall. Frank Marshall introduced them to Valerie and Steve Dean, and also introduced them to Walter King. Walter, Steve, Valerie, Dickie, Reggie, and Frank all ended up banding together to buy the bar in 1981. Tragically, Frank died only months before the bar was to open. In honor of Frank, the rest of the team decided to name the bar after his boat – the Anticipation. The rest as they say is history… and what a history it’s been!
Frank’s legacy lives on at Bar A, and not just because of the name. Reggie and the crew made a point of making the best of what they could with what they had available to them, just as Frank would have wanted. Bar Anticipation began to unveil events as soon as the four surviving partners opened up shop. Local fun runs, charity events (too many to count), live music performances, and an incredibly friendly team of staff members is what Bar A became known for.
Much more than a typical college beach bar hangout, Bar A caters to all ages 365 days a year and also hosts events that are geared towards families. The bar regularly holds both adult and kids’ Easter egg hunts, lights Christmas trees during the holidays, and even helped one 93-yea-old patron celebrate her latest birthday. During the day, this beach bar Mecca is a family-friendly restaurant with amazing food and a relaxed atmosphere.
As the bar’s popularity grew, so did the bar itself. Using Reggie and Dickie’s construction finesse, they quickly expanded the original bar into the massive, concert-ready hall people know and love. By 2009, the bar’s territory included a sprawling 3.5 acres of land, a fully-functional swim grotto, a volleyball court, a main office, as well as one of the most beautiful outdoor gazebo bars in New Jersey. Bar A even bought the houses surrounding the bar to rent them out.
Bar Anticipation played a huge part in helping the Belmar community during major thunderstorms and hurricanes. During Hurricane Sandy, Bar Anticipation acted as a shelter that helped thousands of people get food, water, and recharge their cellphones. Since the massive storm happened, Bar A invested in a humongous generator that can send power throughout the bar’s territory. After the storm devastated the shore, Bar A was quick to throw events that supported local charities to help affected homes and businesses as well.
Bar Anticipation is also known for celebrity appearances, which include Jewel, Train, Bruce Springsteen, and the late Clarence Clemons – just to name a few. Despite all the fame that the bar has acquired over the years, it still remains a casual, and surprisingly unpretentious place to kick back, hang out, and enjoy a drink. Much of the bar’s success at maintaining such an awesome atmosphere is due to the excellent staff, many of whom had been with the bar since opening day. Tara Surick, one of the newest team members, agrees, “It’s a great place to work. Everyone is so welcoming. We really are like a family here.”
Over 35 years later, Bar Anticipation has become one of the most famous bars in the US. Shockingly, its legendary status is not something Reggie or any of the crew saw coming when they first set out. “We were really just trying to make the best of it, using what we had,” says Reggie, “We always want to do the best that we can, and I like to think we’ve accomplished it. That’s still what we’re doing today.”