OCEAN CITY, Md. - Maryland has a rich history of breweries - the first brewery in the American colonies opened in 1703 in Annapolis - and it boasts many today, mostly centered on Baltimore. But others are popping up at the shore.
De Lazy Lizard, a relative newcomer to the Ocean City bar scene, is expanding to two new locations within the resort town this summer.
The bar's owners are building a microbrewery and beer garden at the former Melvin's Steak House, at First Street and Philadelphia Avenue. That's a stone's throw from its original bayside home at First Street, which opened in June 2009.
A second Lizard location on the Boardwalk between Fourth and Fifth Streets is planned for the boxy former home of a Sunsations retail store. Both spots will feature at least three new kinds of Lizard draft beer on tap.
"We're moving full speed ahead," said co-owner Wayne Odachowski. "It's going to be fun. We're really excited . . . . We spent a lot of time focusing on careful expansion this year. We don't want to deplete the quality of our service, our product. It's been so well-received."
Melvin's owner Bill Gibbs, who also controls The Dough Roller chain (four locations), said he approached De Lazy Lizard owners with the idea to expand into Melvin's and lease the property.
"I think it's a great idea," Gibbs said. "It'll be a nice compliment to the downtown businesses."
Melvin's had operated as a family-owned business since the 1950s. Gibbs acquired the restaurant in 2006. The building dates to 1930, according to property records available online.
The brewpub, which will seat about 140 people, will have a rustic flair.
Menu plans include pub fare like bratwurst, fish and chips, and hamburgers. De Lazy Lizard also will incorporate a bakery in the building.
Plans also call for an open-air beer garden. Don't call him a brewmaster - that's "Brew Lizard" Rod Hillman who will brew a Lazy Lizard-branded IPA, an ale, and a lager onsite, Odachowski said.
He has been in touch with the owners of Evolution Brewery, in Salisbury, Md., and Burley Oak Brewery, in Berlin, Md., and has been welcomed into the growing fraternity of Lower Shore brewers, he said.
"I'm really surprised that they sort of just opened their doors," he said. "We could be viewed as a competitor, but they're still open arms, willing to help in any way they can. If they said it once, they said it 10 times, 'Let us know if we can help you in any way.' "
The Ocean City Development Corp., a group that promotes downtown businesses and facade improvements, has been supportive of the project from the start, Odachowski said.
Glenn Irwin, executive director of the OCDC, helped De Lazy Lizard secure $5,000 in business grants to fund fixed interior improvements.
Another microbrew operation - Hammerheads on the boardwalk at Ninth Street - plans to open later this year.
And just over the Route 50 bridge, Hooper's Crab House has been brewing its own beer since last spring.