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Inside the Extensive Changes at Embers, BLU Crabhouse, and the Addition of Pier 23

If you are in Ocean City this week, you may notice a couple of changes as you drive down Coastal Highway. The speed limit, normally 40 mph through North Ocean City, has been reduced to 30 mph, and Downtown, the speed limit has also been reduced. This is due to the expected, unauthorized H2Oi Pop-Up Rally.  It is reasonable to expect heavier than usual traffic, noise and strict enforcement of vehicle laws during the week and weekend.

The Embers restaurant is the one of the latest Ocean City staples to announce its closure, marking yet another change in the local dining scene. Along with the closure of the Embers, the Taustin Group announced a slew of additional changes for their other properties.

Since the late 1950s, the Embers, which first opened on 9th street before graduating to 24th Street has welcomed residents and tourists alike. In 1985, it became an all-you-can-eat seafood and prime rib buffet, a unique addition to Ocean City.

In the announcement, the Taustin Group noted how the pandemic has had a grave effect on its unique business. After nearly a year, Maryland buffets and family-style restaurants remain under strict Covid-19 guidance, making success for restaurants such as the Embers impossible. Since reopening last spring, the Embers maintained a tableside dining experience.

Despite the unfortunate reality of Covid-19 and its ramifications, the management views the change as a new opportunity for growth. “We were inclined to use this time to create the best possible version of our 24th Street property. We really want to capitalize on the property by providing different activities for everyone at all times of day,” said Kyler Taustin, Director of Marketing. “Since many people do not view buffets as safe options anymore, we are using this opportunity to change things up. Throughout every evolution, we have always tried to meet the needs of the community.”

24th Street Revitalization

24th Street Property. Image courtesy of Delmarva Now.

The loss of the restaurant is surely unfortunate for the town, but thankfully, the property is not going anywhere. In fact, it is only getting bigger. The 24th Street lot will eventually feature additional dining, shops, and entertainment, along with the current BLU Crabhouse and Raw Bar, and Embers Island Miniature Golf. At this time, management cannot reveal the businesses they anticipate will set up shop on 24th Street, but promise an announcement soon.

The Taustin Group promises that the revitalized property will keep people occupied all day long. BLU Crabhouse and Raw Bar will reopen in spring 2021 with a revamped bar and courtyard, and the major renovations will be completed by 2022.

Pier 23 Opens This Spring

Although the Embers restaurant was quite unique, Pier 23, also owned by the Taustin Group, might just have it beat in its creative style. As the first waterfront container food port in Ocean City, the concept behind Pier 23 is unlike anything ever seen before.

The new outdoor experience will include three different real containers, previously used for shipping freight, each offering varied foods. Nearly the entire restaurant is made of reused cargo containers. From burgers and tacos to ice cream and an extensive bar, Pier 23 will have it all. Another container will feature live bands and entertainment.

The container dining trend has grown in beach towns across the nation over the past few years, yet the Taustin Group believes it is even more important in the post-Covid world. “Pier 23 is built off the innovation that has come from the restaurant industry, especially after the pandemic. Covid-19 has taught us to assess how often you want servers at your table and how much risk you want to take,” said Kyler Taustin. “We are ready to streamline the dining experience and make sure that you are still getting everything you want, but on your own terms.”

A waterfront container food port at Sparkman Wharf in Tampa, Florida. Image courtesy of 83 Degrees.

Better yet, Pier 23 will collaborate with the OC Bayhopper, offering a water transportation experience for diners.

Construction on Pier 23 began earlier this month. The restaurant will sit on the lot previously occupied by the Taustin Group’s Mad Fish Bar and Grill at the west end of the Commercial Fishing Harbor in West Ocean City. Mad Fish Bar and Grill, which only opened in 2018, closed in August 2019 after a three-alarm fire engulfed the entire building in flames. After two very challenging years, the Taustin Group is optimistic about these changes and their future.

Stay Tuned!

For continued updates about the Taustin Group’s ventures and the status of BLU Crabhouse and Raw Bar, along with Pier 23, visit their Facebook page or website.

Both BLU and Pier 23 are seeking Sous Chefs, Station Leads, and Line Cooks. To apply, visit BLUCrabhouse.com or send an email to mike@embers.com.

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