A Strathmere Tradition for 90 Years
All it takes is a drive by this popular bayfront tavern to realize that you’ve come across a bit of nostalgia. The red shingled building, sitting lengthwise from Bayview Drive to the Strathmere Bay, looks almost exactly as it did during Prohibition when Harold Charleston was running the operations. He was assisted by his wife Gert and the establishment was known as “Strathmere Inn Cafe.” Its windows were covered as was the custom for speakeasies in those days.
Legend has it that Twisties operated as a speakeasy from 1929 to 1933. It is rumored that Al Capone himself once visited and that Gert lent Al’s wife a dress so that she could go fishing. In fact, the owners started collecting fish. Soon, the walls were covered with barracuda, sailfish, moray eels and grouper, each mounted on its own wooden plaque.
It wasn’t until June 24, 1940 that the local municipality officially licensed the establishment to Harold under the name “Strathmere Inn." Opened only seasonally, the couple traveled to Florida in the winter and started bringing back coconut heads as souvenirs. Each coconut head had its own lifelike human face, carved by natives of that era. By the time they were done collecting souvenirs, more than 45 coconut heads sat high above the windows behind the bar.
In the early 1900’s, trains from two railroads - the Pennsylvania RR and the Reading RR would come through town. The trains brought in tourists from Philadelphia to Strathmere and Sea Isle City. Twisties was the site of the Corson’s Inlet Trestle for one of those railroads. If you look across the bay today, you can still see the remnants of those same pilings that supported the track.
In the 1950’s, the establishment changed hands. The new owners, Jimmy and Rose Twist, were Philadelphia natives who transplanted themselves into the quiet, beautiful surroundings of Strathmere. They operated a full scale restaurant with Rose doing most of the cooking and Jimmy tending bar. The little bayside café attracted locals and tourists. The tourists may have had trouble finding the place if it wasn’t for the locals. In fact, there used to be a sign on the main highway that said, "Twist’s Strathmere Inn, Can you find us?" During the 1960’s, the tavern was a haven for the Sea Isle City lifeguards. Gathering there after their shift was over, the lifeguards would socialize, and Jimmy Twist - a most capable bartender - would keep them in line. By this time, everyone referred to the tavern as Twisties, although the name remained the "Strathmere Inn."
The tavern once again changed hands in the early 1970’s. A local realtor, Marty Riordan, purchased the tavern and liquor license and renamed the establishment the “Bayview Inn." For many years it was only open weekends for part of the summer, but Marty kept everything the same: the same coconut heads, the same mounted fish, the same paneled walls, the same hardwood bar. People would walk into the tavern and say they hadn’t been in it for 30 years and yet it still looked exactly as they remembered it! Even the jukebox, full of classic 45’s, had remained the same. A quarter dropped in the slot would play anything from Nat King Cole and Frank Sinatra to the Beach Boys and Elvis. By now, the Strathmere Inn had become a nostalgic place to visit for old timers and a "must see" place for baby boomers who had heard about the popular "red building on the bay."
In 2000, Marty’s son Gary and his wife Denise took over the operations of the much-loved tavern. They appropriately renamed it "Twisties Tavern On the Bay." The paneled walls, the coconut heads, the mounted fish and the hardwood bar remain. The jukebox still has the old tunes with some new ones mixed in. It continues to be a relaxed place to visit, where people from all different professions come together to socialize over some cold beers and Denise’s homemade meatballs, spaghetti, pizza, clam chowder and other homemade treats. And, at the same time, they can enjoy fantastic views of the bay and all its wildlife, or gaze at the fishing boats on their way to the ocean through Corson’s Inlet.
As Twisties goes forward in the new millenium, we see our goal as preserving the rich history of this popular bayside retreat and meeting customer’s expectations at the same time. Of course, those expectations would include the tavern’s long time reputation as a fun, relaxed place to get together. As so many patrons have said to each other: "Let’s meet at Twisties."