NARRAGANSETT, R.I. — Former patrons of Charlie O’s who lamented its closure two years ago can take heart knowing part of the once popular Point Judith bar lives on, just down the road.
It’s probably one of the most iconic parts of the old tavern too: the diamond-shaped green sign with gold ‘Charlie O’s’ lettering that once stood outside the establishment, beckoning locals, summer visitors and college students inside for a bite and a cold one.
The sign landed, of all places, atop the outdoor tiki bar at George’s of Galilee, and Charlie Samaras, who opened Charlie O’s 31 years ago, was there July 16 for a special christening of the new venue, called Charlie O’s Tiki Tavern.
“I am so proud to be able to see my Charlie O’s sign on our tiki bar smiling down on me. That ensures that the memories will never go away,” Samaras, who is now a business consultant at George’s, said. “So any of my fellow Charlie O’s customers and friends interested in reminiscing or having a drink, I’m here, you can probably find me right under the sign.”
A packed crowd of local regulars, friends of George’s and Charlie O’s and dignitaries such as State Rep. Carol Hagan McEntee were on hand for the ceremonies. Samaras, as the guest of honor, pulled down a white sheet covering the sign, which remains untouched from its days at Charlie O’s.
“[The sign] reflects every guest I had in that restaurant, and every staff member that worked there. Their names are in there somewhere, because everyone has warm remembrances of Charlie O’s,” Samaras said.
The sign is once again hard to miss, as anyone going to Salty Brine State Beach will be able to see it easily. Even passengers on the ferries can get a glimpse of it, if they look toward George’s.
Both Samaras and owner Kevin Durfee said it seems right and appropriate that the sign ended up here.
“George’s of Galilee and Charlie O’s have had a unique relationship,” Durfee said.
Durfee’s father at one time owned the building where Charlie O’s stood.
“My father ran a very successful bar called Barnaby’s Landing back in the late ‘70s and early ‘80s,” Durfee explained.
Indeed, the venue went by several names in its almost eight decades at that spot – White’s, Markey’s, Barnaby’s Landing, The Point and lastly, Charlie O’s.
Now, guests at George’s of Galilee can sit and have a drink at Charlie O’s Tiki Tavern while they wait for their table. “The waits are long but the tiki bars make the time fly,” George’s patron Pete Solomon said.
The new tiki bar replaces a smaller outdoor bar and dining patio on the ground level at the rear of the restaurant, just steps away from the beach.
Visitors can sit on high bar stools at the bamboo and straw-hut style bar, basking in the warm summer breeze and looking out at the ocean or a passing ferry in the breachway, traveling to or from Block Island.
The original sign is in good hands. The Durfee family has owned and operated George’s since 1948.
“It’s one of the only independently run restaurants owned and operated by the same family in the state. We are proud to be part of Rhode Island history,” Durfee said.
The restaurant and bar Charlie O’s closed its doors at the corner of Point Judith and Sand Hill Cove roads in 2019, the result of a bankruptcy. The building was demolished in early June after the property was sold to T.J. Martucci, who plans to build a new restaurant there.
The name Charlie O’s appeared in 1990, when Samaras bought, renovated and renamed an old fishermen’s bar then called The Point because of its location at the tip of Point Judith.
It became a popular restaurant that drew visitors and vacationers from all corners of New England. It also was a regular spot for decades for University of Rhode Island students living nearby in Narragansett and South Kingstown.
In 2006, Samaras sold the business to Christopher Simon, a longtime employee, who started working at Charlie O’s in 1993 as a waiter. Simon also later bought the property and operated it until the restaurant closed.