Freddie Lutz has finally realized his dream of opening a second Freddie’s Beach Bar in actual proximity to a beach — Rehoboth Beach, Delaware, that is.
“The concept really grew out of a small travel trailer that I had in Sea Air Village, which is in Rehoboth,” Lutz, owner of the original Crystal City location since 2001, says. “I built a little courtyard out back, and I had a tiki bar out there with lights and an ice machine and a service bar.
“And then I had junk on the walls, like in both Freddie’s locations, and it was the same colors and hot pink furniture [inside],” says Lutz, referring to the trademark purple walls and the abundance of plastic flamingos inside both Freddie’s locations.
“Twenty years later, sitting in Freddie’s in Crystal City, I thought, ‘What is this beach missing? I know, the ocean and sand.’ So here I am back in Rehoboth with that concept,” he adds.
Lutz, who took over the space once occupied by The Pond Bar and Grill at 3 S. First Street, held a ribbon cutting ceremony on Oct. 30 to celebrate the opening of the gay bar’s second location.
Rehoboth Beach Mayor Stan Mills participated in the ceremony, as did Cher impersonator Steven Andrade, and officials from local organizations like Camp Rehoboth and Rehoboth Beach Main Street.
According to Tony Rivenbark, a manager at Freddie’s Beach Bar for the past 19 years, the timing of the opening of the Rehoboth location was fortuitous.
Originally, the bar’s management had hoped to open by Memorial Day, but there was a delay in getting the proper permits. As a result, they believed that the bar would not be able to open until closer to the end of the year.
However, as October drew to a close the bar received permission to begin operating much sooner than expected, prompting Lutz and Rivenbark to throw together the Oct. 30 ribbon cutting.
“I feel fantastic that we were finally able to open,” Lutz says. “I waited eight months on permits, which was kind of a grueling process over the summer. But I think it all turned out for the better, because this is really the ideal time to open. It gives us the whole winter to tweak things and make everything more perfect by spring and the start of beach season.”
Rivenbark notes that the atmosphere and décor at the Rehoboth location is nearly identical to the original.
“Anybody walking in who has been to Freddie’s in Arlington would immediately recognize it,” he says. “If they didn’t know which bar they were walking into, they would immediately say, ‘Oh my God, this looks just like Freddie’s in Arlington.'”
Lutz believes Freddie’s will be able to thrive as more than just a seasonal dining option for residents and visitors to Rehoboth Beach.
“I think Rehoboth is actually getting more and more year-round, not just with folks coming to visit because of the outlet mall, the tax-free shopping and all that, but I’ve run into a lot of people who have chosen to move down here, especially with the whole COVID thing and working from home, so it seems to be growing and busier here throughout the year,” Lutz says.
“From what I hear, The Pond, which is the former restaurant where I am now, was pretty much busy year-round, seven days a week, for lunch and dinner,” he adds. “There are also big events that happen in town. The Wednesday before Thanksgiving weekend, I’m told we’ll be mobbed with people coming down [to the beach]. That Friday after Thanksgiving is Rehoboth’s Christmas parade, when everyone goes to the bar afterward, so we should be mobbed again.
“I’m trying to get my finger on the pulse. I have a lot of friends and other restaurant people who are advising me on when to be open and that sort of thing. So we’re trying to feel it out.”
He adds: “It’s nice that we’re opening this time of year because it gives us a chance to get to know the rest of the restaurant folks and the locals. I’ve been coming down there for 30 or 40 years, so I already knew a lot of people. But this is making it easier to get to know everybody.”
Lutz also noted that finding potential employees proved difficult over the summer, but he’s hopeful that with the closure of more seasonal eateries and drinking establishments, some of those workers may be looking for winter jobs at Freddie’s.
In the meantime, while Freddie’s is cleared to operate as a restaurant, its management is still waiting to get an entertainment license. The bar’s management plans to hold karaoke nights — provided participants don’t perform on a stage — starting around Thanksgiving, and perhaps even as soon as this week.
“Once we get our entertainment license, we want to do the same sort of things we do at the Arlington location: trivia, drag bingo, drag shows, and maybe even a Sunday champagne buffet brunch,” Lutz says.
“I may do a little more with the brunches, like a breakfast buffet, maybe, because I’m pretty sure by spring I will want to be open for breakfast and lunch due to our proximity to the beach. We’re just a block off the boardwalk. So just a lot of things are working out for us.”
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