There is a sensory experience that is as much taste as it is smell when you pass from the oppressive heat of the parking lot and into a well air-conditioned partially darkened bar. When I rolled up to The Ropewalk (honestly just trying to get a little work out of the way before I went home and not intending to have a Happy Hour Adventure) I saw that already it was Happy Hour, which did its job by making me happy.
An early happy hour in the summertime just makes sense. For most vacationers, happy hour lasts until you start packing to go home. The thing about The Ropewalk though is that while it is not a “drinkers” bar, it still is a bar for drinkers. The difference being that it also is a family place, and there were equal parts from practically every generation present when I stepped out of the heat and into the freshly cooled Ropewalk lobby.
At first I thought there were an awful lot of staff members walking around. It was a little after 2 p.m. or so and there weren’t a ton of people present. Later I would discover that these folks were preparing for the evening rush which was just about to start and would continue well into the evening. There are few things more frustrating than having a wonderful time in an understaffed restaurant. Having to search for a server detracts from your experience because it puts the focus on the fun you aren’t having rather than the fun you are having. There is no way this happens at The Ropewalk. Staff members were buzzing in groups of twos and threes getting ready making sure there was silverware making sure there were glasses making sure that the glasses of the people that were there were full, but not being oppressive about it.
A note on family friendliness
One thing that it is easy to forget about when you go to a destination bar is how professional the bartenders are and also how much fun they have. Just to be clear, a destination bar is a place that you go to to settle in for a while. What makes The Ropewalk a destination bar is that it has multiple bars for multiple sensibilities. It has games for grown-ups and children, it has a water view and it has a restaurant. If money is no object you literally can show up at 2 p.m. and pour yourself into a cab at 2 a.m. and have had an absolute blast. I don’t necessarily recommend this.
As part of the Happy Hour Adventure series mostly what I will write here is about why it’s fun to go to happy hour at a particular place. That is not to take in any way away from how family-friendly The Ropewalk is. There are distractions for the kids there are games for the kids there are fun drinks for the kids and there are menus for the kids. As I looked around at some of the young families I saw The Ropewalk as the perfect opportunity to have a date night with your spouse as well as a family night out. It turned out to be the same thing. The playground is safe and easily viewed from the right table in one of the sandy beach bars so you can take some time to reacquaint yourself with your spouse and every now and again look over your shoulder and tell little johnny to stop jumping off the apparatus. Seriously, though, you can have a fun time there with your family without forgetting that you are a fun loving person as well.
Afternoon party time
I made my way to the back bar there were two bartenders there and they were looking a little lonely. Mostly they were as the rest of the staff was setting up for the evening, but they were joking and talking with members of the band who are also getting ready for a big night and generally having a good time. Having a good time is critical if you’re a bartender in Ocean City in July. It is going to get busy and you want to remember that only can be projected if you are actually having fun. I have yet to meet a camera shy bartender and the two guys in the back at The Ropewalk were no different. One was making an orange crush the other was pulling a tap beer, and both were making a real effort to make sure they each got a chance to show off.
The beer selection was fine and there were a number of local beers available which is something that’s important to me. The orange crush was orange crush-y which is really the most you can ask from and Ocean City bar.
Across a distance of tables there were two other bartenders at a different bar also prepping and goofing around. I have it written before about the preparation period, but it really is something worth watching (and a great excuse to show up at a bar at 2:30 in the afternoon).
Bartender Shannon Fitzgerald was both chatting with me and the customer and the other bartender she flitted from tap to glass to customer. The one thing that at a good bartender knows is how important preparation is. It won’t do to run out of orange crush at 8 o’clock on a Thursday night. You have to be prepared. People are counting on you. Everyone is having their best night out all the time, potentially, and the bartenders know that. I think that’s where the fun time attitude originates.
As I made my way out to the parking lot a line was beginning to form already. There were plenty of seats still and people weren’t waiting for tables, but the front desk only could accommodate so many people at a time.
Most were families with kids, many of whom were interested in sitting either out on the deck with a view of the bay or in the sand with a view of the playground. All would get what they wanted in time and once they were seated would be served promptly by the waves and waves of staff members that continued to appear seemingly out of nowhere folding and carrying and pouring and hustling.
It was a sight to behold. It is a site worth beholding.