For decades, the comforting crunch of peanut shells underfoot, a table with a riverfront view and a standing appetizer of mindless shelling, munching and good company is what many people in the Rumson-Fair Haven area have counted on from Barnacle Bill’s.
Going through those auto-pilot motions of walking in to a place where old friends meet, scooping up those peanuts, cracking and catching up is something that has been known to soothe the local soul like hot chicken soup on a cold day.
Granted, some people don’t even like chicken soup, but if it’s what’s been passed on to them as a staple comfort, it’s what brings them back to that good, warm feeling inside — like those peanuts at Barnacle Bill’s. It’s pretty simple. It’s a tradition. Call it a comfort tradition.
And that longstanding tradition of getting together at Barnacle’s over that nutty appetizer tradition just ended abruptly with a Facebook page message that made people go, well, a little nuts.
Judging by the near 500 comments that had ramped up the Barnacle Bill’s Facebook page by the end of Monday, ripping the one tradition away from many locals was akin to telling one of Jack the Ripper’s victims it was just a scratch.
Sunday, the following message from ownership on the Facebook page ended an era that truly wasn't just peanuts with the chagrin of a loved one’s funeral:
“To all our loyal customers: Due to increased reports of peanut allergies as well as a number of slip-and-fall claims we have decided to remove the peanuts from the bar and dining room. We are committed to maintaining the casual, family-friendly atmosphere that you all enjoy! We appreciate your understanding and look forward to seeing you all soon for some great food and music on the Navesink!! Cheers!”
The comments that followed ranged from supportive, to amusingly upset to vehement and beyond. There were a few comments peppering the post that chided others for being insensitive to those with peanut allergies.
And then there were those who out-and-out flogged the venue's ownership for bowing to the pressure of what they deemed overly litigious people and overboard with allergy sensitivity claims.
Most all comments, though, denounced the peanut pouncing with conviction, be it gentle or strong.
There were the simple …
Rumson-Fair Haven Regional High School alumni Lana Sorrentino gave a simple “No, no, no … “ comment.
J. Paul Hughes, another R-FH alumni, simply said, “DISLIKE … Not OK. Is nothing sacred anymore?”
Then there were those who couldn’t resist the puns ...
“… Getting rid of the peanuts is the end of a tradition,” said Victor Malone. “The tradition just happens to be peanuts …”
“This is just nuts,” said Jack Hinge Pintzer.
Then there were the serious …
“How about people with seafood and shell fish allergies?” Mike Ciavolino wrote. “’Take the clams off the menu, these will make my kid sick!’ ‘My Doctor says I can only be around gluten free bread — change your buns ... or I'll sue!’ ‘My wife has Mad Cow disease!’ ‘We have a petition here requesting you serve veggie patties only, no more burgers.’ How long before Barnacle Bill's just serves "Air." Is air ok? Oh wait, dust allergies. Sorry we're no longer serving Air …”
“Another long, great tradition litigated from existence …” said Edward F. Thomas.
Some even wondered if there would be a burial ceremony for the antique peanut roaster from which the nuts were dispensed into “pick up your own” bottomless wooden bowls.
Visions of Fiddler on the Roof’s Tevye doing his “Tradition” dance around the roaster before it’s ceremoniously lowered to the bottom of the Navesink come to mind, too. I know, the notion is a little nuts.
But for anyone attached to the tradition Barnacle’s tradition, is it really that far off?
What do you think? The peanut tradition has been cracking at Barnacle Bill’s for more than 30 years. Has our society become too overly litigious — to the point of litigating too many traditions, like this one, away? Or do you think it’s really just about a few “nuts” and Barnacle Bill’s can do without the peanuts that have ended up turning a tradition sour for ownership?
*Editor's note: Sherman was unavailable for comment as of press time. Patch will continue the conversation with him in the near future.