It all started with a slow business day, according to Madelyn Carder -- not the fact that restaurants were springing up on the sunset side of Ocean City or that people naturally like to be outdoors at the beach.
No, it was the Wednesday slowdown that inspired Mrs. Carder's husband, Bill, owner of BJ's on the Water at 75th Street, to invent the Ocean City deck party.
"Wednesday was the slowest day of the week," she remembers. thought if we got a live band during the day it would bring people in." Thus was born an Ocean City tradition, which these days packs people into bars and restaurants. BJ's, where it all began, will celebrate the 13th anniversary of the original O.C. deck party in August.
"Wednesday has become our busiest day now," says Mrs. Carder, who, with her husband, also operates BJ's South, which does its deck partying on Sundays. "Sometimes we have to turn people away because we don't want any bad waves with the fire marshal."
In addition to the BJ deck parties, there's an Ocean City deck party almost every night of the week. On Sundays, here's what you'll find:
The aforementioned BJ's South, at First Street and the bay (289-7555), has a deck party from 2 p.m. to 6 p.m. every Sunday. The music is provided by a disc jockey, who also gives away small prizes. Mrs. Carder says the party's greatest draws are its extensive menu and the chance to take a ride on the Spirit of BJ's, an offshore racing boat. BJ's South also is a water taxi stop and a great place to dock your own small craft while you belly up to the bar.
Bimini's Beach Bar (289-1274), part of the Great American Cookout entertainment complex in the 45th Street Village shopping center, has a deck party every Sunday from 3 p.m. to 7 p.m. In addition to live reggae music -- usually by the group Jamallad -- Bimini's offers $1.25 Coors Light drafts, $1.25 Bud Lights, a drink called the Bimini Bushwacker (ingredients secret) and a light fare menu.
Also, at Bimini's on Mondays to Thursdays, catch the Ocean City sport of bay ball. Local bar leagues compete behind the waterfront bar in a sport that looks a little like softball but is played with a volleyball in the knee-deep waters of the Isle of Wight Bay. There are games daily at 12:30 p.m. ("the sober league") and at midnight ("the drunk league"), or you can get up your own team for a wet romp around the base buoys.
Back to Sunday deck parties: Alligator Alley at Key Largo (120th Street and Coastal Highway, 723-4200) offers live reggae every Sunday from 4 p.m. to 8 p.m. And Croc's, a sports bar with indoor volleyball at 55th Street and Coastal Highway (723-1697), has an "Ain't Got No Deck Blues Party" every Sunday starting at 4 p.m., with live music and 95-cent Keystone beers.
On Mondays, check out:
"Anybody who has a deck has a deck party," says Kenny Lucas, general manager of Brothers Pub at 125th Street and Coastal Highway (250-8700). "It's been a big thing down here." Brothers' deck party is held Mondays from 8 p.m. to midnight. It features DJ Rockin' Rupe, a local deck party animal who spins the tunes and offers trivia contests with giveaways.
Monday is also the official deck party at Fager's Island, 60th Street and the bay (524-5500), although any day is a good day to party outdoors at this favorite sunset grill, with its outdoor bar and pier's-end gazebo. But on Mondays from 4 p.m. to 8 p.m., Fager's offers drink specials, raw bar deals and entertainment by Batman, another popular party DJ.
Schooners, the restaurant in the luxurious new Princess Royale (91st Street, 524-7777), has oceanfront deck parties every Tuesday and Thursday from 4 p.m. to 7 p.m. and every other Sunday from 3 p.m. to 7 p.m. DJ Rockin' Rupe brings his act to Schooners' Tuesdays, while Thursdays and Sundays feature live remotes from two local radio stations. On all three nights, the outdoor celebrations include dollar beers and wine.
Don't miss a chance to visit Seacrets (49th and the bay, 524-4900) with its island music, palm trees and thatch-covered bar. It offers drink specials from 4 p.m. to 7 p.m. every Tuesday.
Midweek, it's the original. BJ's on 75th Street and the bay (524-7575) offers a deck party complete with draft beer specials, frozen drink and schnapps specials, an extensive dinner menu and a variety of live bands. Twice a year, owners Madelyn and Bill Carder even take to BJ's stage themselves in their own popular band, Teenage Rust and the Fabulous Rustettes.
One of the newest places in town has one of the liveliest deck parties. Corey's, at the Ocean City inlet (289-1844), introduced Thursday "Sundown on the Deck" in mid-June with a bang -- which probably came from the $1 Scud shooters, a potent Southern Comfort and blackberry liqueur concoction that Corey's has been selling about as fast as yellow ribbons sold in January, according to restaurant manager Stacey Spedden.
"For a new place, the response has been excellent," she says. The Thursday deck party also includes a live remote radio broadcast, $1 domestic bottle beers, 75-cent drafts and 25-cent chicken wings. Later this summer, the restaurant plans to take advantage of its inlet location and offer partygoers rides on a new speedboat called the Patriot Missile.
Advertising "the best ribs in the world," Gator's (Wicomico Street and the bay, 289-8100) has a Thursday night deck party from 4 p.m. to 7 p.m. In addition to their light fare menu, which is served until 2 a.m., Gator's offers dollar shooters and dollar drafts on deck party night.
Actually, there is no deck party in Ocean City on Fridays, but the Greene Turtle (116th Street, 723-2120), which has no deck, offers a weekly deckless deck party from 4 p.m. to 7 p.m.
Local DJ The Bub deals out trivia questions to the crowd of locals and beach people who pack the Turtle. There are $1.25 domestic bottle beers, 85-cent drafts and $1.75 mixed drinks to wash down the free pizza or free subs. The music at the Greene Turtle's party, one veteran of the event says, usually starts out with oldies, progresses to dance music and turns into good old rock and roll before the night is over.
Of course, Ocean City was made for people who want to party outside, and you don't have to wait for an official deck party to do it. The ocean, bay and harbor are lined with restaurants and bars that offer sun-washed dining on outdoor decks every day, without ever calling their celebrations deck parties. The boardwalk is packed with such places.
Some other ideas for outdoor drinking, dining and dishing? The Angler Restaurant at Talbot Street and the bay (289-7424) has either a DJ or live music almost every night -- and offers a free sightseeing cruise at 7 p.m. and 9 p.m. with every dinner entree.
A. T. Lantic's on Talbot Street near the boardwalk (289-1441) has an outdoor patio and raw bar. Captain's Galley II in the west O.C. harbor (289-2525) has a huge outdoor deck for dining. The
Landing, at 123rd Street bayside (250-0400), serves meals on two outside decks. And the Ocean Club restaurant at 49th Street and the ocean (524-7500) gives you the outdoor option along with nightly live entertainment.