On the eve of his restaurant re-opening, faced with the oxymoronic joy of post-Hurricane Sandy progress and pain of a pending Rumson-Sea Bright Bridge closing, Woody's Ocean Grille's Chris Wood got some great news — he was told the compromise he'd rallied for in staggering the bridge's closing days was coming.
And, as of Wednesday morning, when Wood said he got the confirmation call he had been waiting for from Monmouth County Freeholder Director Thomas Arnone, that compromise became a reality.
That compromise, he said, looks like it's going to call for the bridge that funnels traffic in and out of Sea Bright to still close on weekdays starting "on or about Jan. 28," but to be open on weekends, or Friday nights through Sundays, and closed again on Monday mornings until the work is done. Wood heard it from Sea Bright Mayor Dina Long early on Wednesday morning. It was backed by the call from Arnone.
"I just got off the phone with Arnone," Wood said. "He agreed that, without the compromise, full closing of the bridge when all of us in Sea Bright are trying to rebuild and recover from Sandy would have been just devastating. This is great news for everyone! What a relief. And, I have to say that local legislators really stepped up to the plate on this one."
The restaurant owner and founder of Sea Bright Rising singled out Senator Joseph Kyrillos (R-13) and Assemblyman Declan O'Scanlon (R-13) for "really (going) to bat for us ... I think I can speak for everyone in town when I say that we are all so grateful. It's just a win-win for everyone involved!"
Opening the bridge up for weekends, Wood said, will get the necessary work done in winter months rather than peak spring and summer seasons while also affording the now five open businesses (six, counting Mrs. Rooney's hot dog stand) to get back on their feet and thrive post-Sandy.
It will also make it more convenient for residents and other business owners to get in and out of town on weekends to get their homes, stores and restaurants lived-in, revamped and rising above Sandy's wrath.
"It makes all the sense in the world," Wood added.
Last night, while waiting for official word a hopeful Wood posted a big "THANK YOU!" in advance to the legislators. The post had 125 likes late Tuesday night, but also cautioned in comments that though "it's common sense (and) an alternative was always there ... It's not set in stone yet, but it's close!"
Woody's will open at 11:30 a.m., serving lunch and working through a "regular day, lunch and straight through," Wood said. In the meantime, there will be two public forums — one at the Sea Bright Municipal Complex from 2 to 4 p.m. and another from 6 to 8 p.m. at Rumson-Fair Haven Regional High School — to field input on bridge replacement concepts.
The Jan. 28 closing is a separate issue from the years away replacement, though many attending the forums said through social media that they planned to vent their frustration about it.
In addition to Woody's, Dunkin Donuts, Bain's Hardware, Harry's Lobster House and Ama Ristorante are currently open, as is Mrs. Rooney's hot dog stand.
Patch will have more confirmation and details from local and county officials as soon as they become available. Check back for updates.