The restaurant business is nothing new to Chalkboard Tavern and Grille owner Bob Webster, having worked as a chef at Victoria’s Restaurant and King’s Creek Country Club in Rehoboth, and helped start up Fresco’s in Ocean City.
His plans for Chalkboard this summer, however, will be a whole new ball game for him, as he prepares to bring more music and entertainment to the area than most have previously attempted.
Webster, who this past October became owner of Chalkboard — formerly The Big Easy Restaurant — in the Marketplace at Sea Colony, is anxious for his first summer at the location.
“The entertainment here is really going to pick up by the middle of the month,” he said. “I’m eager to see how it goes.” Webster has been busy booking gigs and scheduling shows for the restaurant for throughout the summer.
For a little over a month now, in addition to being dubbed “Ladies’ Night,” Wednesdays have been headed by Bryan Smith, better known to listeners as “Smitty,” a former radio DJ for 93.5-FM WZBH. After 14 months with the station licensed out of Georgetown, Smitty moved on, pursuing what he loves.
“Music is my absolute favorite thing in the world,” said the West Palm Beach, Fla., native. He attended art school there, where he was drawn in to music at an early age.
“I started playing piano when I was 5 and picked up a guitar in middle school,” he said. Smitty became active in both chorus and band, tackling other instruments, including clarinet and saxophone. “I’ve always enjoyed performing and listening to music.”
He moved to lower Delaware when the radio position became available. “It’s a shame that it didn’t work out. There were just a lot of creative differences, but I’m happy to be in the area doing what I love most,” he added. “It has really been a blessing in disguise. There are great people here and they really appreciate what you do for them.”
One of the main elements of his solo performances at the Chalkboard that draws the crowds is his versatility and originality.
“I really like all genres of music,” he said. “You might hear me playing some Beatles one second, and then I’ll play Justin Timberlake the next.” He has been known to add a little of his own flavor, mash-up numerous tunes for an unbeatable medley, and even throws his own original pieces in the mix from time to time.
“People really seem to enjoy the variety,” he said. “Good music is good music, no matter how you look at it.”
Smitty’s performances will hop over to Monday nights once they become the regular “Lite Night,” a sponsored evening for Miller Lite drafts priced at $1 and a chance for customers to win a promotional Jeep. “We’d like to get more of a deck-party atmosphere at the Chalkboard,” said Webster.
Thursday nights will continue to feature Open Mic, to where local musicians on any level, covering any genre, are welcome to showcase their talents. Friday and Saturday nights this summer will guarantee live music, assured Webster, with some names that have frequented the restaurant before, including female acoustic duo High Maintenance.
The two-woman team will also be hosting theme nights once a month, starting on Friday, May 11 with a “Toga Party.”
“I’m willing to try whatever the girls want to do,” said Webster. “It should be interesting.”
Halfway through June, Chalkboard will be providing outdoor tunes, as well, with acoustic-style, deck entertainment set up on the restaurant’s patio on Saturday afternoons.
The live entertainment route is a new one for Webster. “This is my first time doing something like this,” he said. “It’s a whole new world for me. It’s a lot of fun, but it’s definitely a challenge, too.”
So, why the big step? Webster said that he wants to bring live music to Bethany that other places have not.
“It’s tough, but we are going to try to provide entertainment to those who want it in the area,” he said. “There’s no one else right around here who’s attempting this much. We have a very diverse crowd, and I’m hoping that we can appeal to everyone. We’re going the extra mile here.”
Webster said that he also had some shoes to fill. “The place that was here before us really geared to a younger crowd,” he said. “I don’t want to lose that, but I want to bring something that everyone can enjoy.”
For more information about upcoming shows and performances or dining, call Chalkboard Tavern and Grille at (302) 539-7482.