Crown jewel of Marblehead dives put on market for $1M

The crown jewel of Marblehead’s dive bars — the Rip Tide Lounge — has been placed on the market for $1 million, real estate broker Sam Gifford of Churchill Properties LLC told the Marblehead Current

The Rip Tide Lounge, the iconic bar at 116 Pleasant St., has been placed on the real estate market for $1 million. COURTESY PHOTO / EYAL OREN / WEDNESDAYS IN MARBLEHEAD

“It’s definitely on the real estate market,” said Gifford. “George [Ciampa] has owned and operated it since the late 1960s. He’s been at it for a really long time, and if the right buyer, the right person, comes along, he’ll step aside and enjoy retirement.”

Gifford took the Current’s call while standing in the establishment the morning of Jan. 10. He’s already been showing the place and talking to prospective buyers. 

“Since the listing got posted, my phone has been ringing nonstop for three or four days at the very least,” he said. “I think it will sell fast.”

The real estate listing offers an opportunity to acquire the local business and the 116 Pleasant St. building in which it resides. The new owner could convert the commercial property into a new enterprise.

“With a nearly unbeatable downtown location with street frontage on one of the busiest streets in Marblehead, this building has the ideal location for a multitude of business ideas,” the Rip Tide Lounge listing reads. “Let your vision come to life for multiple downtown businesses or other opportunities.” 

With its wooden shingles painted blue and its door red, the two-story building was constructed around 1900, according to its assessment card on Patriot Properties. The town assessed the Rip Tide building at $156,000 and the .075-acre parcel underneath it at $350,600 for a total assessment of $560,600. Its listing sells the commercial property and the bar as a pair: “116 Pleasant St. has been the home to the cherished ‘Rip Tide Lounge’ for many decades, and has been family owned and operated. With a constant crowd and regular customers, it has flourished within an ever-changing downtown.” The listing notes that the owner is “willing to cooperate with new owners on transferring the existing liquor license if desired and permitted.” 

According to Rip Tide’s Facebook page, Ciampa acquired the Rip Tide Lounge in 1968, but the spot became a bar in the late 1930s or early 1940s. It was first known as Kylie’s.

“It’s believed to have received the first license to serve alcohol in Marblehead when Prohibition ended,” the bar wrote. “The name was changed to the Rip Tide in the 1950s.” 

Marblehead native Betsey Withum has been a regular for years.

“It used to be pretty much a narrow hallway,” said Withum on a recent afternoon in the Rip Tide. “There was just a bar and a wall.” It was a place sailors and fishermen made their own, she added. 

“Girls weren’t allowed in,” she said. “Even when they did allow them, my parents wouldn’t let me in because they thought it was the house of ill repute.”

Withum said the place had built a following and community over the years. Moreover, the wall has been knocked down. A pool table, tables and chairs in no particular order, a dart board, a coin-operated game, the Massachusetts flag and TVs fill the space. 

On the afternoon of Jan. 9, Dan Klein stood behind the Rip Tide bar. The Marblehead resident has bartended here full-time for a year-and-a-half; before that, he took shifts on and off for four years. 

“It’s a place that runs off regulars,” he said, “but at the same time, we get a mix of people.” 

The more varied crowds typically show up on weekends, especially when college kids come home or people reunite over the holidays. Alongside drinks, the Rip Tide serves what Klein called “a short bar menu” from chili and hotdogs to pastrami sandwiches and burgers. 

Withum and others expressed a wish: Their watering hole remains untouched when the new owner steps in.

“It would be a tragedy if it goes,” said Withum. “For people who know this place, it’s a five-star dive.” 

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