Saturday, June 10, 2023

Carolina Beach restaurateurs to bring mini golf back to island with new pub

By the end of summer, Putter Pub will be opening at 801 Joseph St. (Courtesy Ryan O’Rourke)

PLEASURE ISLAND  Flamingos, palm trees, neon and suds will be part of a new venture in Carolina Beach.

Ryan and Laura O’Rourke, owners of The Dive Food and Spirits, are getting into the miniature golf game. By the end of summer, Putter Pub will be opening at 801 Joseph St.

READ MORE: Wine shop owner expands with pop-up restaurant, event space in former Castle Street eatery

A little more than 4,000 square feet of land will become 18 holes, with a bar overlooking the course. The space once housed a locksmith and T-shirt company.

“We had our shirts made for The Dive there and they told me that they were retiring and moving out of the building,” Ryan told Port City Daily Monday. “And I’ve been looking for a property for a while that would be appropriate for what I wanted to do.”

At first, the O’Rourkes hoped to find a space that would be closed-in for year-round play, to be cool enough in the summer and warm during cold winter nights. 

“Or even for rainy days,” he said. “But finding a place on Carolina Beach that’s big enough and has enough parking wasn’t easy. But the lot is covered with beautiful, big live oak trees that we’re going to keep. So it will have enough shade during the summer.”

The O’Rourkes signed a lease and contracted with COST Theme and Specialty Construction to build the course. A fabricated modular system will be shipped in multiple palettes, made of concrete sections for each hole.

The course will be recognized by the U.S. Pro Mini Golf Federation and the World Mini Golf Federation for competitive play. Putter Pub will welcome leagues and host tournaments.

“My wife and I both love mini golf,” Ryan said. “When we went on vacation in Florida a few years ago, we visited a course that had a full-service bar. We thought it was a great idea and decided to make it happen.”

Located in an 860-square-foot building on the property, the bar will have full ABC permits. Windows will overlook the course for those who wish to enjoy a drink to celebrate scoring a hole-in-one. 

“We wanted to have a place where parents on vacation can bring their kids to play, and they can sit inside and still be able to watch over them,” Ryan explained.

The bar will seat around 12 people and there will be a few tables scattered around the space. Benches will be installed outside as well. The O’Rourkes are still working out the particulars, including hours and pricing.

As residents and restaurateurs of the island, the O’Rourkes bought their first business, The Dive, in Carolina Beach in 2018. Laura was a bartender for several years when the former owners decided to sell. Ryan, who was in landscaping, happened to be looking for a new career and decided to take a chance on the restaurant industry. 

“It’s not always easy,” he said, adding it’s also never boring.

Once Putter Pub opens, there may be crossover opportunities for food from The Dive, but for now Ryan said the plan is to only serve drinks.

“Alcohol and mini golf just goes hand-in-hand,” he said.

Themed nights will be part of the fun — such as an ‘80s take — and Putter Pub will host fundraisers and parties. Live music may be added as well once operational.

Only two other courses exist in New Hanover County — an indoor glow-in-the-dark venture in Independence Mall and the outdoor course at Jungle Rapids. Carolina Beach Mini Golf was once located on the boardwalk, a site that has hosted the family-friendly game since the 1960s. It was demolished in 2021 to make room for more amusement park rides.

Nearby from Putter Pub, at Lake Park Boulevard and St. Joseph Street, another mini-golf course used to bring in thousands every summer, though it shuttered years ago along with the amusement rides that relocated. The site is now the future home of The Proximity, a mixed-use project from Cape Fear Development, consisting of apartments, office, retail and restaurants.

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Shea Carver
Shea Carver
Shea Carver is the editor in chief at Port City Daily. A UNCW alumna, Shea worked in the print media business in Wilmington for 22 years before joining the PCD team in October 2020. She specializes in arts coverage — music, film, literature, theatre — the dining scene, and can often be tapped on where to go, what to do and who to see in Wilmington. When she isn’t hanging with her pup, Shadow Wolf, tending the garden or spinning vinyl, she’s attending concerts and live theater.

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