MULLICA TOWNSHIP — An age-old watering hole in town is back in proper form this summer after a nearly 12-year absence.
The Sweetwater Casino was first established in 1924. Although there was never any gambling, the drinks and fare were good enough to keep things pumping until 2008 when the restaurant was the second largest business in the township.
Unfortunately, in June of that year, a lightning strike ignited a fire that destroyed the Sweetwater. The builiding languished until Mike and Kimmie Iles bought the property in the winter of 2016. The following summer, they opened the Sweetwater Marina and Riverdeck.
That first Riverdeck was just a bar and around 50 picnic tables under an open cover. People returned and enjoyed the atmosphere. The Iles kept things that way until last Halloween when they demolished what they had and started construction on a new restaurant and banquet facility. This newest iteration is celebrating its grand opening on Friday.
“We want people to know we’re one of South Jersey’s unknown gems,” said General Manager Joe Leyenaar.
Leyenaar described the Riverdeck’s vibe as Key West in New Jersey.
The space is replete with tiki bar, tiki lights and palm trees — all of which look out over the 83-slip marina and Mullica River. The menu is grill cuisine and loyalists will be glad to know the famous Sweetwater Cheese is being offered and made with the original recipe.
There’s space for 500-600 people once COVID-19 restrictions relax, but even now, there’s plenty of room because so much outdoor dining space is available. The year-round restaurant will feature nightly entertainment once the state allows it.