Home » Rip Tide Lounge changes ownership after 55 years

Rip Tide Lounge changes ownership after 55 years

Riptide Lounge is a bar located at 116 Pleasant Street in Marblehead. Photo by Libby O'Neill

The Ciampa family, who owned the Rip Tide Lounge on Pleasant Street for more than 50 years, transferred the pub’s liquor license to a new owner at a Select Board Meeting April 12.

For decades, the Rip Tide Lounge has been known to its patrons as a no-nonsense hole in the wall pub with a comfortable, casual atmosphere. Its dim lights, sociable bartenders, and coin-operated pool table have brought regulars and happy hour warriors through its doors for years.

In January, Rip Tide owner George Ciampa, who purchased the iconic dive bar in 1968, agreed to sell the bar and lounge to Chelsea-based real-estate investor and developer Mikael Vienneau.

George’s daughter-in-law Jamie Ciampa has overseen operations at the Rip Tide for 28 years. She said the decision to sell ultimately came after her husband Chris Ciampa died last year. She said George, turning 80 in June, is ready to retire, and with his son gone, it was the right time to sell.

“It’s bittersweet,” Jamie said. “I feel a little sad, because I had so many memories over the 28 years I was involved with the Ciampa family.”

Jamie said she will mainly miss the memories that came from her day-to-day involvement with the bar. She said she’d always remember the Rip Tide’s regular customers and long-term employees.

Reflecting on the highs and lows of her time at the Rip Tide, Jamie recalled throwing a private party for U.S. Constitution sailors when the ship came to Marblehead in 1997. She said she could also remember rushing to reopen “guns blazing” after a kitchen fire burned the bar in 2004.

Vienneau said he respects the iconic bar and wants to maintain its essence as much as possible, though he plans to renovate the exterior with the help of the Salem-based architect Peter Pitman. He said that he hopes to expand the bar’s kitchen as well, offering a wider variety of food options.

“He’s going to put in an exterior façade, new windows inside,” Vienneau said. “It’s going to look like a whole different building, but we’re trying to keep the same vibe.”

Ciampa said she hopes the new owners will keep the Rip Tide’s heart and soul alive.

“I know they want to expand the kitchen. I am hopeful that they will keep it somewhat of a dive, but just clean it up, because Marblehead needs a dive,” Ciampa said. “I just hope that they keep it as casual as possible, down to earth as possible, as affordable as possible for the working man in Marblehead.”