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Photos by Ann Coen

For years, and under the shadow of the lighthouse, LBI denizens could find the iconic Rick’s American Cafe – though usually they’d find it after dark. Reminiscent of its namesake – the main setting of Casablanca—it was not, though you may have encountered a brawl or two worthy of a blockbuster on any given evening. Known for its blackened sea bass, cold beer, live music, and even livelier crowds, Rick’s was famous (and sometimes infamous) amongst locals.

Today, what stands in its place is the opposite of the dark, nicotine-stained walls you’d expect from a traditional waterfront watering hole. The Daymark, owned and operated by The Arlington’s Paul and Brian Sabarese, is a light, breezy ode to the bay it sits on, both in its cuisine and décor.

The transformation from beloved dive bar to a hip brunch spot and event space is impressive enough, and only compounded by the fact that it happened in only a few short months. The Sabareses closed on the property in mid-March of 2016, and opened their doors mere three months later in June of that year –just in time for the summer season.

“I was here pretty much every day, but it had to get it done,” says Brian, one-half of the founding brother-duo and chef. “It was a very aggressive construction schedule. All new siding; we stripped the walls down here to the stud – all new insulation, all new plumbing, all new electric, all new sheetrock, all new windows, all new finishes.”

So, really – all new everything, which is evident most in the attention-to-detail that was paid when decorating the downstairs restaurant, and the upstairs banquet hall. But the process of figuring out how to brighten- and liven-up the space was a little less traditional than you’d expect from longtime restauranteurs (both brothers have spent over 20 years in the business): “The whole place pretty much started with the wallpaper,” Sabarase says, “And then we came up with the floor design.”

Those patrons who have previously visited The Arlington, the Sabarese’s popular hangout in Ship Bottom, will recognize their attention to wall accents. Where The Arlington features warm-toned blowfish sourced from a textile firm in California, The Daymark’s wallpaper comes from the Brooklyn outfit Eskayel and has splashes of a modern blue-and-purple abstract reminiscent of soundwaves. “The Arlington’s a huge craft beer bar, we’re top 10 in the state—we have 25 beers on tap. When we came here, we just didn’t want to be competing with ourselves. And so here, decor-wise, we kind of went the opposite,” explains Sabarese.

That design philosophy carried them all the way through the renovation process. Where The Arlington’s floors are wood, The Daymark’s from LBI Tile are a white-and-blue pattern of bistro design. Bring in the bar-top of blue-and-green painted, reclaimed boat wood from JM Lifestyles in Randolph, NJ, and you’ve created the perfect design foil to their sister restaurant—and a great place for them to host events to complement those hold at their Ship Bottom property.

Where The Arlington has established itself as a hotspot for rehearsal dinners, The Daymark has the water-view, the sentimental value of the lighthouse, and proximity to local churches on its side for weddings. That’s been proven by their heavily booked schedule of events for 2018 and into 2018 – and not only for receptions, but also baby and bridal showers, anniversaries, and other celebrations. This is exceptionally attractive for the couple or party-planner who isn’t looking to heavily bring in their own décor—the space speaks for itself, as best described by Sabarase: “Little funky, little eclectic.” Combined with a whole-lot of light, and a whole-lot of attention to detail, The Daymark is quickly living up to its patronage as being an easily-recognized marker – not only in LBI dining, but in event space

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