Rehoboth’s JAM Bistro moving

Eden staying put for now; planning commission gets first glance at hotel during concept review
February 15, 2023

In advance of the inevitable demolition of its current home, JAM Bistro in Rehoboth Beach is moving from Baltimore Avenue to a new location on the corner of Second Street and Wilmington Avenue.

Hopefully, JAM will move in the next 60 to 90 days, said Mark Hunker, who co-owns the restaurant with business partner Jeff McCracken under the company name of JAM Holdings. The plan is to open in time for the season, he said.

Hunker and McCracken opened JAM in 2010; the restaurant has been at its current location, 21 Baltimore Ave., since 2011. They’ve known since at least 2018 they might have to find a new home – that was the year local hotelier Gene Lankford first introduced the proposed Atlantic Crown. The hotel was set to be built on the two empty lots immediately west of the Atlantic Sands, which Lankford owns, and the beach cottage where JAM is located. At the time, there was talk of incorporating JAM into the hotel’s design, but that is no longer the case.

JAM’s new home has been many restaurants over the years, most recently UnWined at the Beach and Azzurro before that.

Hunker said the new space was nicely renovated by the UnWined owners and it was left as a turn-key operation. There’s no need to change the floor plan, he said.

As for Eden, JAM Holdings’ restaurant in the house next to JAM, Hunker said they’re going to get through this season at the current location, then reevaluate. The old beach cottage was recently purchased by Lankford and its lot has been incorporated into a new design for the hotel, which means the house will also be torn down. 

Last year, JAM Holdings bought Coho’s Market and opened Red, White & Basil on the highway, said Hunker. This year will be about getting JAM in a good place, he said.

“We’ve got a couple of years,” said Hunker on Eden’s future. “It’s a one-at-a-time kind of thing right now.”

There are plans for a restaurant/dining space at the new hotel, now named Atlantic Crowne, but it would be primarily used by hotel guests. Hunker said he and McCracken have been in discussions about running that operation, but the plans haven’t been finalized.

Hotel concept review

The Rehoboth Beach Planning Commission got its first look at the latest version of the hotel during a concept review Feb. 10. In addition to adding the letter “e” to the name, the hotel now has 55 rooms – 43 facing Baltimore Avenue, 12 facing the residential properties on Maryland Avenue to the north – which is 15 more than the original design.

Carlton Savage of Scaled Engineering, Lankford’s grandson-in-law, presented the new plans during the meeting. He said the plans are 100% code compliant and won’t require variances.

Savage said there would be ground-level and underground parking, which will be provided through the entrance to the underground parking lot of the Atlantic Sands Hotel.

Savage said the one question they have about the design of the hotel is the allowance of an elevator all the way to the roof. It would allow for much easier maintenance of the equipment that will be placed up there, he said.

For now, there are no plans for a roof-top deck, said Savage. However, the roof would be overdesigned in case that was something the hotel decided to pursue in the future.

The overall reaction from the planning commission was positive. There was some discussion about how the design did not pull pedestrians off the street with ground-level retail or restaurant space.

The city is trying to redevelop Baltimore Avenue, and the hotel in its current form is not contributing to that, said Commissioner Jim Ellison.

Savage acknowledged Ellison’s concerns, but he said this is the type of design that code allows for and is still economically viable. If a project stays within the zoning code, it’s going to be a box, he said.

Being a concept review, presentation and discussion were fairly short. Savage said the issues raised by the planning commission would be considered before the plans are brought back for an official site-plan review. There was no timeline given for when that review would take place.


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