The lesson she took from Sandy? Make her bayside restaurant mobile.

As the November wind blows, all that can be heard on the cool bay at Union Beach is the screeching of ravens, mingled with seagulls. However, they usually remain silent. Now that winter is here, you wouldn’t even know the empty pavilion that is home to popular restaurant JakeaBob’s Bay.

The staff assembled this mobile restaurant about a month ago.

“It’s been very quiet,” owner Angelita “Gigi” Liaguno-Dorr said Tuesday. “There’s our trailer across the street, so let’s all go over there.”

More than 10 years after Hurricane Sandy devastated JakeaBob, Liaguno-Dorr said she has settled into the regularity of her seasonal schedule. She packs up the restaurant at the end of October, starts working on her menu around January or February, and starts again at the beginning of May.

“I’m better. I’m doing better now. That’s what rebirth is all about,” Liaguno-Dorr said, discussing a record year for local rice last summer.

“You have to learn to pivot,” she added. “Go as far as you can”

Even after a decade, Like many New Jerseyans, the 59-year-old owner is still recovering from the damage caused by the historic storm. Sandy claimed 38 lives and caused an estimated $30 billion in damage to the state — destroying countless businesses and leaving more than 300,000 homes uninhabitable.

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Liaguno-Dorr said that after Sandy took her time, she got back on her feet.

The night of the storm, she and her crew went home after all the sandbags.

“It doesn’t matter how high we go. It’s all gone,” she said in an interview at the outdoor patio and bar in the now-reopened space. JakeaBob’s main focal point is a one-story, teal-roofed building. The 2,200-square-foot restaurant building was damaged by the storm.

After Hurricane Sandy Union Beach

Tuesday December 11th after Hurricane Sandy. JakeaBob’s Bay restaurant on Front Street in Union Beach in 2012. (Aristide Economopoulos/The Star-Ledger) SLSL

“There was just stuff everywhere,” she said. Pointing to a blue house a block away, the restaurant’s tiki bar ended up in the courtyard, Liaguno-Dorr said.

It took some time to revive the business. In 2013, she reopened in a temporary location called “JakeaBob’s Off the Bay” to help with community relief efforts.

“That’s hard. Giving back to businesses and communities; “We wanted so desperately to bring life back to the city,” she said, who spent some time working with Jon Bon Jovi’s Soul Kitchen. But reopening the bay a year later requires narrowing the focus, she said.

“We really need to channel our energy into figuring out what we’re doing here,” Liaguno-Dorr said. JakeaBob’s took a hiatus until 2016, when it reopened on a seasonal basis, as opposed to year-round.

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The tiki bar was taken back, but everything became “if we had to take it off” mobile. It reopens from May to Labor Day and is packed until October 31st every year.

When COVID strikes, She was forced to close again in 2020. However, JakeaBob’s business rebounded and it was a peak year.

“I’m competitive by nature. We always try to beat the previous year,” Liaguno-Dorr said. “Each year since we reopened has been higher than before. I hope this is a trend we continue to follow.”

Union Beach Mayor Charles W. Cocuzza described the Monmouth County neighborhood as a blue-collar “bedroom community” made up mostly of families. Since Sandy, Union Beach’s population of over 6,200 has dwindled to just over 5,500 in 2012. The mayor hummed, “Sandy.”

But Cocuza said most businesses have recovered.

“JakeaBob had a building, but they’re gone. Now they’re only open for the summer, but (the business community) is great,” Cocuzza said. “Dowlings restaurant, Anchor Inn, they were hit but they got back up and running.”

Still, reflecting on the storm wasn’t easy for Liaguno-Dorr. Liaguno-Dorr sometimes teared up as she spoke, discussing complications at the restaurant bar. Other times I cursed over and over again.

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“The deck you see is the original deck. We just reposted it,” he pointed out. She did not put the building back. mobile kitchen; They were replaced by mobile bathrooms and mobile refrigerators.

The former indoor bar and seating itself seats 100. Now she competes with seating for the same 400 or so guests on the wood-framed patio and outside bar. JakeaBob is always an outdoor restaurant. Now that’s the only thing.

How much did Sandy cost Liaguno-Dorr?

“I don’t know. I’ve never thought about it like that. You don’t get much insurance when a building goes down. We’ve put in over the years,” he said. “I’d say at least over $2 million. Maybe three.”

About $600,000 in State Economic Development Authority loans are still owed.

Like others, Liaguno-Dorr also had issues with insurance after the storm.

“It was an absolutely nerve-wracking experience,” she gushed. “I have said this many times. Here are some things to prepare for in the event of an unfortunate event. You pay your premiums. Be sure to do your due diligence. We do what we do. you think But there’s always this little bit of language that we don’t understand.”

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Steven Rodas can be reached at [email protected]. Follow him on Twitter. @stevenrodasnj.


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