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Dewey Beach: Grownups Gone Wild
Dewey Beach is where Washington singles—young and old—go to relax, drink, and find true love. Or at least a good one-night stand. By Hillary Jackson, Lauren Sloat, Denise Kersten Wills, Sonia Harmon, Eleni Savopoulos, Melissa Davenport
Women hanging out in Dewey Beach sometimes get a little wild. “My drummer is getting the best lap dance of his life,” said Burnt Sienna singer Jeff Ebbert during a hot summer show. Photograph by Jennifer Smoose.
Comments () | Published August 1, 2008

Check out our photo slideshow of extra pictures from Dewey Beach. 

Easy E is elated.

Tall and tan with a prominent brow and a Cheshire-cat grin, he bounds up to the outdoor table where a dozen of his friends sit at the Starboard, the bar that serves as home base for the party crowd at Dewey Beach. Most of the group finished work early Friday afternoon in Washington and hit the road for Dewey. Wearing coverups over bathing suits, they’re recuperating from last night’s drinking bout while warming up for today’s marathon.

It’s only 11 on Saturday morning, yet Easy E already has hooked up. “I just made out with a blonde!” he yells.

His friends seem mildly amused. Easy E established his reputation as the house player early in the summer—his first in Dewey—and his antics don’t surprise them anymore.

Every Friday, this group convenes at the house it rents for the summer. For $1,250 each, members get a place to crash and a fridge full of beer from Memorial Day through Labor Day. There’s no guarantee of a bed or a hot shower, but finding friends who want to party is a sure thing. And by late June, they’ve formed a close bond.

They hop on the same merry-go-round of Dewey bars and restaurants each weekend: tacos at the Lighthouse on Friday, breakfast at the Starboard on Saturday, live music at the Bottle & Cork in the afternoon, and drinks at the Starboard or Rusty Rudder Saturday night. Then it’s back to the Starboard for Suicide Sunday brunch, which features Bloody Marys.

“Each weekend is the best weekend ever,” says Kristen, a 27-year-old from DC.

Still hung over, she scans the breakfast menu’s 20 shooters and six morning cocktails. She orders a Bullshark—orange and raspberry vodkas, Champagne, orange and cranberry juice, and Red Bull. “It’s the hair of the dog,” she says.

Easy E wants to show off his morning conquest. “It’s her first time in Dewey,” he says. “I’ll bring her over and prove it.”

Art, a 28-year-old from Arlington, watches as Easy E heads out in search of the woman. “He always goes for Dewey virgins,” Art says.

Easy E—it’s an old nickname revived this summer—is 33 and works as a manager at a big tech company in Northern Virginia. At Dewey, he doesn’t talk about work. No one does. The point is to park your car, ignore your e-mail, and forget about the “real world” on the other side of the Bay Bridge.

Dewey is spring break for adults, a Neverland for recent college grads, young professionals, and even some middle-agers closing in on their AARP years. If you want to wear a stick-on mustache to the bar or do shots of Jägermeister at noon or make out with a stranger in public, you’ve come to the right place.

As one fortysomething Dewey regular says, “It’s a no-consequences weekend for people with high-stress jobs.”

Easy E takes his vacation from the real world further than most. He has “Dewey girlfriends,” regular hookups he doesn’t see or talk to anywhere else. He even has separate Facebook identities. His official profile, which he shares with colleagues, includes just one photo of him, in a business suit. His private profile has more than 1,200 pictures, many chronicling adventures in Dewey.

The bar is starting to get crowded. Art tries to strike up a conversation with a couple of women only to realize he met them last night. The details are foggy. He turns back to his housemates.

“Tip back your head and open your mouth!” he yells to Kristen. He pours Champagne from a bottle with a spout into her mouth. She holds up her hand for him to stop, but not soon enough, and foam sprays across the table.

Kristen’s housemates laugh and get ready for their turn. Soon everyone’s buzzed and covered in cheap bubbly.

The beach was party central until the town banned drinking there in 1986. Now the party has mostly moved into the bars. One Dewey veteran says he hasn’t gone to the beach in three years. Photograph by Jennifer Molay

As promised, Easy E returns with the blonde, but she seems drunk and slightly alarmed and disappears soon after he introduces her to the gang.

Damn. Easy E can’t believe it. He’d been planning to take her back to the group house for some midday fun.

A few blocks away, lifeguards with the Dewey Beach Patrol scan the ocean waves from high above the sand. They’re the town’s first responders to emergencies on or off the beach, but mostly in the bars. One of the rare beach rescues in recent memory happened a few years ago.

“I was sitting on the Dickinson Street stand,” recalls Dan Mazer, a tan 21-year-old from Newark, Delaware. “A sailboat kept coming too close to shore. We whistled at it, but usually in situations like that, it means someone’s had a heart attack.”

The boat—which he says was a 60-foot, $1.5-million yacht—crashed into shore. “When we get on it,” he continues, “there is a man passed out at the steering wheel. He’s British and he’s naked, with a bottle of Scotch in one hand.”

The lifeguards found his mistress below deck. Both were so drunk that they had to put on flotation gear before wading into the shallow water.

Today things are quiet, though it’s a sunny, breezy afternoon. The beach used to be the epicenter of Dewey partying, back in the days that longtime Dewey regulars still talk about.


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Posted at 12:00 AM/ET, 08/01/2008 RSS | Print | Permalink | Comments () | Articles