Boardwalk getting a Margaritaville

Entertainer and businessman Jimmy Buffett wavesas Gov. Chris Christie (right) looks on during Tuesday's Atlantic City announcement that a Margaritaville entertainment complex would be coming to the Boardwalk next spring. The tropically themed cafe and related attractions will be affiliated with Resorts Casino-Hotel. ELIZABETH ROBERTSON / Staff Photographer
Entertainer and businessman Jimmy Buffett wavesas Gov. Chris Christie (right) looks on during Tuesday's Atlantic City announcement that a Margaritaville entertainment complex would be coming to the Boardwalk next spring. The tropically themed cafe and related attractions will be affiliated with Resorts Casino-Hotel. ELIZABETH ROBERTSON / Staff Photographer
Posted: July 26, 2012

THE LONG-AWAITED marriage between musician-turned-hospitality industry titan Jimmy Buffett and Atlantic City was officially consummated Tuesday as the pasha of Parrotheads and New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie unveiled plans for a business partnership between the singer-songwriter's Margaritaville empire and Resorts Casino-Hotel.

Buffett's signature Margaritaville restaurant will take over the Boardwalk-fronting real estate occupied by Breadsticks Cafe & Grill and Club 1133, a high-roller retreat, while a LandShark Bar & Grill will be erected on the refurbished Steeplechase Pier on the Boardwalk at Pennsylvania Avenue. A seasonal LandShark beach bar is also planned.

Christie said the entire project represents another $35 million in Atlantic City development.

Construction on the two complexes is expected to begin later this year, with an opening targeted for next spring.

Appearing with Christie and several other VIPs on a makeshift Boardwalk podium, Buffett, whose musical embrace of a hedonistically tropical lifestyle has made him one of pop music's richest performers, offered brief remarks. He left the ceremony before reporters could ask questions.

Buffett, who performs Aug. 4 at AyCee's Boardwalk Hall and Aug. 28 at Camden's Susquehanna Bank Center, said he felt like Nucky Thompson, the 1920s Atlantic City vice czar portrayed by Steve Buscemi on the hit HBO drama "Boardwalk Empire." He added, "I'll try not to get in as much trouble" as Nucky.

Buffett appeared in khaki shorts, a green polo shirt and sandals, which set him apart from the suit-wearing political and casino big shots around him. Referring to his legions of devoted fans who proudly declare themselves "Parrotheads," he described his planned Atlantic City outlets as "a nest" for  "a flock of migrant birds."

The late Dennis Gomes and his partner, real estate tycoon Morris Bailey, bought Resorts in 2010 and re-themed the oldest legal gambling den east of Nevada with a Roaring Twenties motif. On Tuesday, Gomes' son Aaron, the casino's executive vice president of operations, said he saw no conflicts between the historical theme and Margaritaville's tropical vibe.

As such, he insisted, the 1920s aspects of the property — including vintage music piped over the casino's sound system and period employee costumes "aren't going anywhere."

Tuesday's announcement ends four  years of negotiations between Buffett's company and Atlantic City casino operators. In 2008, a New York-based real-estate developer announced its intentions to buy what was then Trump Marina and rebrand it as a Margaritaville casino-hotel.  But hassles over a sale price ultimately scuttled the deal.

In 2011, the property was purchased by Houston-based Landry's Inc., which spent  $150 million to transform it into Golden Nugget Atlantic City.

Contact Chuck Darrow at 215-313-3134 or darrowc@phillynews.com. Follow him on Twitter @chuckdarrow and read his blog philly.com/casinotes.

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