By DONALD WITTKOWSKI
Since the early 1900s, a modest building has been a fixture at the corner of Ninth Street and Atlantic Avenue, just one block from the Boardwalk.
Spadafora’s Restaurant & Clam Bar has occupied the building for the last 40 years, but the iconic casual seafood place will not be back this summer and the structure itself will soon fade into Ocean City history.
Thomas Spadafora, the restaurant owner, has requested that his lease for the city-owned building be terminated, city officials said. The city, in turn, plans to demolish the building to make room for an expansion of the adjacent municipal parking lot on Ninth Street.
City Council approved the termination of Spadafora’s lease during its meeting Thursday night after listening to City Business Administrator George Savastano describe the benefits of tearing down an old building that has “seen better days.”
“We hate to lose a restaurant in town, but this ultimately will be a win-win situation, in our opinion,” Savastano said. “We’ll be able to accommodate Mr. Spadafora’s request. The city will then demolish the building that is there. I think everybody will agree, it’s seen better days.”
Mayor Jay Gillian also expressed regret in seeing an Ocean City restaurant close. But he said in a statement Friday that by demolishing the building and expanding the parking lot, it will improve safety because there will be fewer pedestrians and restaurant patrons near the busy intersection of Ninth and Atlantic.
Gillian and Savastano said the expansion will provide more parking spaces for Ocean City visitors. Estimates indicate that the additional revenue generated by the new parking spaces will exceed the lease payments made by Spadafora’s for the building, they said.
Frank Donato, the city’s chief financial officer, said Spadafora’s would have paid $30,849 to lease the building this year if it had decided to reopen the restaurant.
On average, the city reaps about $3,800 in revenue annually for each space at the municipal parking lot on Ninth Street. Based on that figure, the city would gain more in parking revenue than it gets from the Spadafora’s lease if it added nine or 10 new parking spaces once the building is demolished, Donato said.
Spadafora’s has had a succession of leases for the restaurant ever since the city purchased the building and the Ninth Street parking lot in 1999, Donato said.
Thomas Spadafora could not be reached Friday for comment about his request to end the lease.
Spadafora also has a seafood takeout place, called Spadafora’s Seafood Market, on Haven Avenue near Ninth Street. He is expected to continue his operations at the Haven Avenue location.
On its website, Spadafora’s Restaurant & Clam Bar describes the history of the old building at the corner of Ninth and Atlantic. Spadafora’s had occupied the building since 1981.
Before Spadafora’s began leasing the property from the city, the restaurant rented the building from the former owner, the late Helen Shriver Schilling, according to the website.
Long before Spadafora’s moved in, the building served as the location for family restaurants dating back to the early 1900s, from Aunt Mary’s kitchen to the Hen House and “some in between,” the website says.