In April the Oak Bluffs’ dockside restaurant on the harbor, Coop de Ville, opened for its thirtieth year. Coop de Ville is soccer central for Martha’s Vineyard and they plan to celebrate this year’s World Cup. They offer casual outdoor seating and New England seafood, including steamers, boiled lobsters, fried clams and eight flavors of Buffalo chicken wings.
Sitting at the open air bar with one of their 100 brands of beer or at one of the tables with the “Vineyard’s Best Fish Sandwich,” or at the counter facing the harbor, feasting on the spicy wings or the dollar littlenecks or oysters from the raw bar, the Coop is a beach shack on the harbor that can make an Islander feel like he’s on vacation even if he isn’t.
Owner Carroll “Petey” Berndt, 53, of Vineyard Haven, originally from Baltimore, bought Coop de Ville from the original owner 28 years ago.
He talked to The Times while at work.
Are you ready for the summer?
We’re ready. We’re the first restaurant to open on the harbor and the absolute last restaurant to close. We go from mid-April to just about Halloween. When the boats stop that’s pretty much it.
Are you doing anything special to celebrate your thirtieth year in business?
We will probably have the band Woody Pines and Mike Benjamin play in June for a big celebration.
There were about 400 people at our twenty-fifth anniversary. We had a band on a boat and it was crazy and the World Cup. We are a World Cup soccer headquarters. We had ninety people for the USA game four years ago. The World Cup starts June 12 this year and that will be our biggest event this summer. We are the soccer headquarters on the Vineyard for the world cup. It will be craaazy down here.
What was your first restaurant job?
Right here, but not during the summers when I painted houses and worked for Bill Smith doing clambakes. This is where we used to come from the beach for little necks and oysters and wings. This was the hangout back then. And when this place became available I told my Dad and he said you better buy it, so we bought right then and there on the spot. My dad loaned me the seed money.
I bought it from the previous owner, Jeff Casarsa, who was from Buffalo. He came down to do chicken wings. I’ve expanded to have a big raw bar and everything we have today, including a new addition next door we are calling the Shuck Shack. It will have outdoor seating in front of the serving window, its own beer taps and raw bar.
What influences your menu?
I am from Baltimore which is why we have a lot of Baltimore related things on the menu. Baltimore beer, steamed shrimp, Baltimore wings, heavy on the old bay. Lots of Maryland related food, like crab cakes.
How many tables do you have?
We have seating for about forty but during the World Cup we put 90 on the deck, which is incredible, really. The finals this year will be in Rio and we would like to put a huge screen on a boat in the harbor and have 500 people here but we need to get permission from the town. Wouldn’t that be fun? That would be the biggest soccer celebration in Martha’s Vineyard history.
Do you play soccer?
Oh, yeah. I played, coached, did it all. I have a bad ankle that keeps me from it now.
How many people do you employ?
About fifteen. I have four people who have been with me for 20 years which is amazing for a seasonal restaurant, two people who have been here seven years, one for 15 years. Let’s just say it’s very hard to break into the ranks of the Coop.
What specials will you have this summer?
We do our lobster fest every Tuesday. Monday madness is lobster rolls, Thursday is our clambake, dollar littlenecks all summer. We have a hundred kinds of beer this year. It’s insane, twenty on tap. We are expanding our raw bar, three kinds of oysters. It’s going to be a fun summer with the world cup. We just need the sun to shine.
What do you do in the winter?
I paint houses here on the Vineyard. I used to go to Brazil in the winter but when you have a house, a mortgage and a dog you kind of have to stay around.