ATLANTIC CITY — The Scales Grill & Deck Bar in Gardner’s Basin, formerly the Flying Cloud Cafe, will be demolished next month due to damage from Hurricane Sandy.
The restaurant will be rebuilt soon, although details are not finalized yet, said Jack Keith, executive director of the nonprofit that administers the Basin. The land and buildings are owned by the city, and the tenants manage the businesses.
Kyle Williams, the manager of the restaurant, told The Press of Atlantic City in November that the floors were filled with sand and that the building took on several feet of the water during the Oct. 29 storm.
The building has remained boarded up since.
Williams said the initial flooding damage from Sandy required mold remediation, which later revealed structural damage to the foundation. As a result, the Federal Emergency Management Agency deemed the building a total loss in mid-February, he said.
Keith said the exact source of funding for the rebuilding was unknown, but the managing nonprofit, the Atlantic City Historic Waterfront Foundation, was working hard to get it all together, including specifics on the new plans.
“It won’t be the same,” said Mary Anne Constantino, former general manager of the restaurant. Constantino co-owned the business with her husband for 23 years from 1988, when it was called the Flying Cloud Cafe.
When she bought the business, it was a small restaurant and bar that was bankrupt, she said. But the community knew it as a destination.
“Even when all the demolitions were taking place (in the Inlet section in the 1980s and 1990s), and roadways were blocked, we used to get calls from people asking us how to get there,” Constantino said.
If the restaurant is rebuilt in a contemporary or modern style, it will lose the community feel it had, she said.
“(That is) unless they leave the seaport motif, which is what it was originally,” she said. “It just felt like you were at the shore, or in New England … just at the water’s edge.”
The building has a long history, dating to before World War II, Keith said.
John Applegate, 69, of Galloway Township, grew up around Absecon Inlet, which had historically been called the Graveyard Inlet due to the many wrecks on the nearby Brigantine reef, according to a 1976 pamphlet on the history of the Basin.
The building where Scales is located used to be a facility to pack clams before it became a “crash station,” Applegate said.
“The basic building ... was used as a radio shack and dispatch depot for rescue boats stationed to recover downed pilots (in the Atlantic),” Keith said.
Longtime resident Tom Hulme, 65, said he remembered playing on one of the abandoned boats when he lived near the Inlet, starting in 1955.
“It was stripped down, so it wasn’t useful for anything, and it couldn’t go anywhere,” he said Friday.
Neighborhood kids used to play around the shack, which was locked up after it was abandoned, and they used to climb onto the old rescue boat, Hulme said. The shack at that time was “just a white clapboard building that was boarded up.”
When development began for Gardner’s Basin, many in the area were doubtful about its future.
They used to say “you’re putting a restaurant in a mud hole,” recalls Hulme, who added that the area now known as the Basin was “just a meandering stream” that was manmade during the 1800s into what it is now.
As time passed, a small restaurant and bar opened in place of the shack in the late 1960s or early 1970s. The business saw rapid growth, Hulme said. It was operating through a single window in the rear of a small building, Constantino said.
As business grew over the years, the shack was expanded by “adding a room here and expanding a room there,” but always sticking to the same architectural style, Hulme said.
“I used to work at (the restaurant) Captain Starns, and I remember going past it every day, watching the things take shape there,” he said.
The size of Scales is likely double what the small shack was, Hulme said.
The name Flying Cloud Cafe was chosen when a replica of a famous clipper ship by the same name was purchased and displayed in the area of Gardner’s Basin in the 1970s, Hulme said.
But after the Flying Cloud Cafe closed, it became Scales in May 2011 when Kyle Williams took over.
For the upcoming summer season, a temporary food service will be set up for customers, Keith said. This will include a portable kitchen and outdoor seating in a sort of festival style.
Williams said preliminary projections show the rebuilt restaurant will be up and running in 2014.
Atlantic City government offices were closed Friday, and no officials could be reached for comment.
The total assessed value of the entire area is in excess of $37 million, according to tax records.
Contact Anjalee Khemlani:
Follow Anjalee Khemlani on Twitter @AnjKhem