Rip Tide’s new manager gets thumbs up from Marblehead Select Board

The Rip Tide Lounge is one step closer to securing a new lease on its long life. 

During an April 12 public hearing, the Marblehead Select Board approved the transfer of an all-alcoholic liquor license to Mikael Vienneau, the incoming manager of the iconic dive bar located at 116 Pleasant St.

“Mikael has the property under agreement, encompassing both the real estate and the Riptide business,” stated attorney Paul Lynch. “He plans to continue the business as the Riptide while introducing improvements to the building and the business itself. We’re eagerly anticipating these changes.”

Lynch emphasized that Vienneau brings extensive experience in the restaurant industry to the venture and intends to maintain the cherished character of the Rip Tide Lounge while enhancing its appeal.

George Ciampa has owned and operated the lounge since the late 1960s. In January, the property and business were put on the market for $1 million.

Back then, broker Sam Gifford of Churchill Properties told the Marblehead Current that while Ciampa had “dedicated a significant portion of his life” to the Rip Tide, he would happily step aside and enter retirement for the right buyer.

George’s daughter-in-law, Jamie Ciampa, told the Select Board during the hearing that Vienneau appears to be just such a buyer.

“The new people taking over seem to be wonderful,” she said. “They appear to have a solid plan in place, with intentions to beautify the Rip Tide while maintaining its identity as a bar.”

She added, “We’re thrilled to have new ownership carry on the legacy, as we’ve held it for 55 years — but we’re tired.”

Established in the late 1930s or early 1940s, the Rip Tide Lounge was initially named Kylie’s and is believed to have received Marblehead’s first license to serve alcohol following the end of Prohibition. In the 1950s, the name was changed to the Rip Tide.

The two-story building, characterized by its blue wooden shingles and red door, was built around 1900.

Marblehead native Betsey Withum, a long-time Rip Tide regular, expressed her hope that the establishment remains intact under new ownership.

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

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