Demolition crew tears down iconic Circus Drive-In — PHOTOS
WALL — A piece of iconic Jersey Shore history came down on Wednesday with the demolition of the Circus Drive-In.
Supporters of the eatery gathered one last time to swap stories and shed tears as a crane tore down the restaurant that stood along Route 35 since 1954. The clown sign was loaded into a truck.
"I can sleep at night knowing I did as much as I could. Whovever bought (the property) they wanted to rip it down and that's what they did. They offered the most money so green kind of won out on this won," Samantha Kelly, part of the Save the Circus Drive In Facebook group, told New Jersey 101.5.
Kelly said she has not been able to find a new job that offered the same family atmosphere as the Circus.
"I worked for a chain restaurant for a few months and I did all right there money wise but it's very hard to love a chain restaurant...the Circus was very unique and I loved that and I feel a lot of the other employees feel the same way. You can't find a replacement."
Karen Lyons, of Spring Lake Heights, remembered when the servers wore roller-skates to bring food out to customers. She called it a sad day as she watched the crew work.
"I understand that things have to change but the Circus has been here forever and it's just very sad that we couldn't keep this as part of a shore memory that everyone could experience," Lyons told New Jersey 101.5, adding that she did sign the petition to save it. "This is something that should have stayed."
The restaurant was unexpectedly put up up for sale in the fall of 2016. Fans appealed to the town to block development but Township Administrator Jeff Bertrand said lawyers for the township informed officials that there was nothing that the municipality could do. The restaurant was not considered a historical landmark by the state Historical Preservation Office.
"We don't really have any options that will do anything to save it. We have people calling here telling us we should buy (the Circus property). I don't know what the town buying it will do," Bertrand said last year.
Preservation Office spokesman Larry Hajna said in 2017 that anyone can nominate a property for designation for listing on the state or federal historic registries.
"The problem is, it doesn't really protect it unless there's state funds involved in a project that's proposed. There's nothing really in the law that precludes the owner from doing what he wishes with the property that he owns."
Gerald Norkus of Harold Wien Real Estate said that keeping the Circus Drive-In open was just not economically feasible.
"Factor in the value of the property and then you look at running a seasonal restaurant, the numbers just don't work," Norkus said in January 2017.
The property was sold for $1.75 million to Rock Asset Management, which owns shopping centers in Spring Lake Heights and Neptune City.