The Berkeley Carteret Hotel overlooks a portion of the Asbury Park boardwalk, but now this historic space is about to contain the newest nightlife space for the LGBTQ community of this famed Jersey Shore locale. Daniel Montelongo and Bubba Caruso are bringing Oasis to Asbury Park and are kicking off the party in style. They have a full weekend of events planned for March 17th-19th, giving the residents of Asbury Park and beyond a taste of what they can expect this summer. I chatted with Montelongo and Carson about their new venture. what they plan to bring to the Asbury Park nightlife landscape, and why diversity and making everyone feel welcome is at the top of their priority list.
Michael Cook: Oasis has gotten a great deal of attention publicly since you launched the Instagram page.
Bubba: Oasis is a new queer space in Asbury Park, N.J. for the community. Right now, our community is being hit in so many different ways across the country with everything from drag bans to trans bans to so many different pieces of legislation. I grew up at the Jersey Shore and I know that more queer spaces are needed. Dan and I put our heads together and said “let’s do this”. We want this to be a new space that people can go to and be themselves, have fun, let loose; just something new.
Dan: The nightlife scene in Asbury Park is stagnant and hasn’t changed much. And I bet you are wondering where it is going to be….(laughs).
MC: Absolutely! Where is Oasis going to be located?
D/B: Oasis is going to be at The Berkeley Hotel. We are taking over the space that was formerly Johnny & June’s. We are upgrading the space, there are lighting and sound systems being installed. This is part of a multi-phase project that we are doing in partnership with the hotel. The ultimate goal is to take over the pool in the summer, and there are other spaces within the hotel that we have our eyes on that we want to make into more social and more usable spaces than how they are utilized right now.
We’ve been working with the hotel since January to bring the project to life really. We are going to be throwing a preview event next weekend, March 17th, 18th and 19th. We’re featuring local drag performers and have RuPaul’s Drag Race star Olivia Lux headlining Friday night! Saturday we are doing a Happy Hour and Dance/Top 40/pop anthems on Saturday night. On Sunday, we are doing a drag brunch called Sunday Service featuring three local queens, two drag queens and a drag king, including Demi Gawdess. We have a DJ doing Disco Tea on Sunday and DJ Guy Wilson doing house music on Sunday night to round out the weekend. We are trying to bring a little New York City flavor to the shore!
MC: What do you think is stagnant about the Asbury Park LGBTQ scene that you want to work towards changing with Oasis?
D/B: You have two options if you are looking for a queer/gay owned or operated bar. Georgies and Paradise are the two that you can go to if you want to go to a “gay bar” and I don’t think there have been a lot of other gay bars in this town since it became a gay haven in the last twenty years or so. It’s the “same old same old” and it doesn’t feel like there is much newness and there is not anything different. That is what we are trying to do.
There is a lack of competition in the space also. When there is a lack of competition there is no incentive for any of the current bar owners, managers, or operators to incentivize the wants and needs for someone to come to your space. They are already going to go there by default because they are the only options. When you have more competition, you start to spark that need to do something different to cater to your customers, to want to bring them in, to want them to come to your establishment over the competition. We are hoping that by doing this, we are going to bring a bit more competition to the scene and encourage the other bar owners and operators to do a bit more with their spaces, bring in more talent and different things. We ultimately want our bar to do well, but hopefully this forces the other bars to step up and do more for their customers too.
MC: What brought you to the nightlife world? Historically so many take paths that are so different.
D/B: I have been in New York City for sixteen years and have been very immersed in the nightlife scene here and it got exhausting very quickly. Over those years, I have made a lot of friends and mentors in those spaces. With this bar, I have been able to tap into their knowledge and get their advice. The former owner of G Lounge/ Rebar has been advising, some club kids that I know have given me tips on how to approach things. My background is in marketing so when it comes to how to brand the space and get the look and feel that want people to understand what the brand is, that is where my strengths come in, as well as with the operational aspect. Also, I love throwing a party. I have clients who are event clients like Viva and Ric Sena Productions, and have seen the inner workings of what it takes to throw a good event. It’s a culimination of a lot of things over the past sixteen years that has given me the confidence to be able to say “hey, I can make this happen”!
MC: Summer in Asbury Park at the Jersey Shore is true East Coast destination for the community. Will you be doors open at that time and ready to make a splash?
D/B: Our goal is Memorial Day weekend, to be fully running and open for the weekend, full hours, with a goal of being open seven days a week. We are also working on the pool space which will be our sister space which will be named Sandy Bottoms Pool Bar. Those two venues are going to work in tandem with each other when we open.
MC: Do you hope to bring in a new and different demographic than what is currently making up Asbury Park nightlife?
D/B: Potentially. Our goal is to make everyone feels welcome, especially people of color. There are a lot of “white gay men” in the scene that are always showcased and I think that is the opposite of what we want to do here. We’ve had people ask what our plan for diversity is, and that is shown in our talent. We are bringing in a drag king for example; a lot of our talent is POC. We want to make feel this feels like there is representation.
We were asked if this is a “gay bar” and we actually said that it is a “queer bar”. We don’t cater just to a gay community, we truly want to make sure that everybody feels welcome.
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