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John Spera is One of Ocean City’s Only Bartenders

John Spera is One of Ocean City’s Only Bartenders

By Collin Hall

John Spera is known for making drinks in a dry town – come say “hi” if you get married at the Flanders, because it’ll be one of your only chances to grab a drink within city limits.
John Spera is known for making drinks in a dry town – come say “hi” if you get married at the Flanders, because it’ll be one of your only chances to grab a drink within city limits.

OCEAN CITY – Wait – what? A bartender in Ocean City, a historically dry town? Yep – it’s true. John “Pop Pop” Spera has worked at the Flanders Hotel as a bartender for 23 years- and no, he isn’t a fugitive running from the alcohol police. The Flanders Hotel has a special alcohol dispensation that allows them to serve the boozy stuff at special events like weddings, galas, and receptions.

A few select places can serve alcohol at their events, like the local VFW and other civic groups. But no other Ocean City spot has a bartender as long-standing as John, or at a place with such high visibility.

John is a West Philadelphia native who moved down the shore when opportunity struck. He worked at Maloney’s in Margate for three decades before coming to The Flanders. He said that the vibe in Ocean City is unique, certainly different than the Philly area, where he managed restaurants for many years.

“It’s good people here in Ocean City,” he said. “It’s funny – even at fancy weddings you see people running around in bathing suits.”

The Flanders Hotel, in Ocean City, has a unique history intertwined with the city- it was designed to attract visitors from big cities who might not have otherwise heard of the island.

For years, it was prohibited to wear bathing attire in the main lobby of the hotel. An “underground” exit was marked for guests headed straight for the beach.

John has worked hundreds of events here, each with a different flavor. Last year, the hotel celebrated 100 years of operation. The mayor and well-to-dos from all over the city came to celebrate The Flanders. The massive hotel is one of the longest-standing businesses in the city; it was originally conceived as a high-class hotel that would attract city folk who might not otherwise consider a trip to the shore. When the hotel was built, Ocean City did not have much of a reputation outside of the immediate area. The mighty hotel, which was partially crowdfunded by locals via bonds, was a smashing success and put Ocean City on the map. The timing of the then-recently-built Delaware Memorial Bridge out of Philly made it easier than ever to visit the newly-hot Ocean City.

John told Do the Shore that The Flanders has always been incredibly good to him – he takes the job of “Ocean’s City’s only bartender” very seriously. One thing he can’t stand is a long line for a drink. He mixes, shakes, banters with guests – many of whom he has served for decades – all while keeping the line moving. That’s a skill that takes time to hone, he said.

“I do everything in my power that nobody has to wait for a drink,” he said.

John said that vodka is the liquor of the moment. “Everyone drinks vodka now,” he said. “And Gen Z is really into Old Fashioneds. A lot of older drinks are coming back.”

If you’re at a Flanders Hotel event, come say hi to John. He’ll make your drink with a smile and a joke likely to make you laugh.

Content Marketing Coordinator / Reporter

Collin Hall grew up in Cape May County and works as a content manager for Do The Shore, as well as a reporter. He currently lives in Villas.

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