Morgan’s Pier is entering its third summertime season since its grand opening in April 2012. The popular waterfront bar, restaurant and music venue has experienced significant success in its first two summers and has even higher hopes for this season. While some attractions remain the same, others have transformed. This summer these changes include a new head chef, an entirely refurbished menu and a fresh string of artists to perform on the waterfront in the upcoming months.
General Manager Dana Canalichio expects this summer to be their busiest yet. The first two summers at Morgan’s Pier often featured local bands with smaller followings. These shows got the word out that the bar was more than just a bar. A new venue was born on the waterfront. As Morgan’s Pier is one of many properties owned and controlled by Four Corners Management – owners of other venues such as Union Transfer, Boot & Saddle and Ortlieb’s – the dual existence of restaurant and concert venue seems a natural one.
“What makes us different is our music scene,” Canalichio said. “You don’t find that anywhere else on the water, but we have weekly concerts and DJ appearances. This summer, our lineup is different because we’ve decided to host six big, more well-known bands instead of having lesser-known bands once every week.”
In order to book and plan these larger shows Morgan’s Pier has begun collaborating with R5 Productions, the local and self-described “Do It Yourself” show promotions agency. R5 Productions is responsible for shows at mid-sized venues all over the city, from Johnny Brenda’s to the First Unitarian Church.
In the upcoming summer months, Morgan’s Pier will host bands including Spanish alternative dance group Delorean and Florida natives Merchandise, who have claimed before that they prefer to play at alternative venues.
“I went to a couple of shows there last summer but I think I would have to say that I’m much more interested in this year’s lineup,” said Fishtown resident James Burke, 24. “It’s great because it’s not just another venue. It’s a kickback spot and it’s got a much different vibe being on the water. I can come here on a regular night with no show and just hang out, which I wouldn’t really do at many other concert spots.”
Complementing the laidback atmosphere of the restaurant is their new menu, which is being heralded as a backyard BBQ style lineup of food. Morgan’s Pier has boasted prominent chefs each year since its opening, first with David Katz and last year with George Sabatino. This year new chef David Gilberg, formerly of famed Portuguese restaurant Koo Zee Doo, has promised this season at the pier to be different, with open air grilling on the deck and a summertime picnic vibe.
Server Patrick Chase expects the changes to make this summer a big one for Morgan’s Pier.
“We’re constantly switching it up here and I think customers like that,” Chase said. “This menu especially is so fitting for the atmosphere here and what we’re all about. It’s relaxed. It’s reminiscent of the beach and it’s accessible. We needed something that would be appropriate for all of the different things that are always going on here.”
The spectrum of tone and attitude at Morgan’s Pier on any given night of the week is vast. Walking in through the front gates on a Friday night, one is likely to hear the pounding of a DJ’s set, be surrounded by throngs of people often reaching the bar’s maximum capacity of 2,000 and see all that gives the place its good time and nightclub reputation.
Early on any weeknight, however, the waterfront bar exudes more of the calm and approachable restaurant vibes that it is also known for. A few dozen umbrella-shaded tables pepper the warm dock and customers can smell the grill cooking almost as soon as they walk inside. The wooden decks give off the boardwalk feel that can be hard to find in the city.
Canalichio believes this is the summer that Morgan’s Pier reaches its full stride.
“Ultimately, we’re extremely excited for what we expect to be our best summer yet,” she said. “We’re truly a unique aspect of this part of the city.”
– Text, images and video by Madeline Bates.