Historic Springs Tavern Now For Sale in East Hampton

15 Fort Pond Blvd, Springs
Courtesy of Compass Commercial

The restaurant and bar on Fort Pond Boulevard in Springs has been known by several different names over the decades. Wolfie’s. Jungle Pete’s. Most recently, the Springs Tavern. Now, it’s for sale.

Dan and Charlene DeSmet, the bar and restaurant’s owners since 2017, are selling the business and its contents with a long-term lease in place. Hal Zwick and Jeffrey Sztorc of Compass Commercial are representing the listing. The building is not for sale.

“The site occupied by the the Springs Tavern, formally Wolfie’s, is an historic meeting place for decades for Springs residents and the broader East Hampton community for those seeking a good time with friends and neighbors. Its history will live on with the next operator,” Zwick tells Behind The Hedges.

The price to take over the lease is $225,000, according to Zwick, who, in a statement says it is difficult to acquire a wet use site on the East End.

“We’re just looking to retire,” says Charlene DeSmet by phone on Thursday, adding that she and her husband will keep the restaurant and bar open as they look for a buyer, someone who will keep the restaurant and bar as it is.

The building holds 120 seats in the large dining area, a commercial kitchen and a large renovated bar. The property has ample parking and a spacious outdoor seating section, as well.

“It’s a turnkey operation,” she says, adding that it has the same staff that has worked together over the past five years, particularly important with the current labor shortage. “It would be foolish to change it,” she adds.

“It’s not become anything it isn’t already. It’s a historic, local, unpretentious, reasonably priced community hub,” she says.

Courtesy of Compass Commercial

The site has been a tavern of some sort since 1934 when Fort Pond Boulevard was largely undeveloped, according to a history of the Springs Tavern. It was called The Jungle Inn, a bar operated by owner Pete Federico and his wife, Nina, because Federico thought the densely wooded area looked like a jungle. Over time, it became known locally as Jungle Pete’s.

Back then, the only alcoholic beverage served there was beer. In fact, you could get a 12-ounce glass of beer and a burger for 5 cents each. Wine was added to the menu after World War II as returning local veterans had acquired a taste for it in Europe.

The original building burned down in a fire in 1944 and the Federicos rebuilt it. Starting in the late 1940s, the artist Jackson Pollock was a regular at Jungle Pete’s, as he lived not far away on Springs-Fireplace Road. Jungle Pete’s became a gathering spot for the growing artist community, including Willem de Kooning, who also lived nearby. “Artists Howard Kanovitz and Larry Rivers played horns in the house band at The Tavern with composer Morty Feldman regularly,” the tavern’s history says.

It is said Pollock spent nearly every might there until his fatal car accident in 1956. He would ride his bike down to the bar and home, although sometimes he would sleep it off in the woods nearby. The current logo is an homage to “Jack the Dripper.”

Jungle Pete’s was one of a trio of local watering holes frequented by prolific and influential artists and writers of the time. Bobby Van’s in Bridgehampton a favorite with the writers Truman Capote and John Knowles. John Steinbeck and his wife would spend time at Baron’s Cove Inn in Sag Harbor, where they would meet up with other writers. The original Baron’s Cove Inn no longer exists and Bobby Van’s moved across the street (it was originally located where World Pie now stands). But, the bar on Fort Pond Boulevard has stayed put and retains a throwback charm.

Courtesy of Compass Commercial

Following Pete Federico’s death, his wife continued to run the establishment until 1972. The new owner renamed it Jungle Johnnie’s. It would also later be known as has Vinnie’s Place, the Boatswain, the Frigate, the Birches, Harry’s Hideaway, Wolfie’s, and, in 2017, The Springs Tavern.

The DeSmets are looking to resume its open mic and karaoke nights, which stopped during the COVID-19 pandemic.  “We also had done and will continue to do tons of fundraising events for local organizations,” such as the Pollock-Krasner Study Center and the Springs Food Pantry. Each year, they honor Pollock’s birthday in January by making recipes from his cookbook and donating funds to the non-profit organization that runs the center in his name.

“We managed to blend the fishermen, the landscapers — people who have been coming there for years — with the newer people who have to moved out from New York City and Brooklyn,” DeSmet says.

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