'No passport required' Beachfront Kokomo's Restaurant introduces new membership option

Photo of Leeanne Griffin

With reserved parking, private cabanas and “toes in the sand” food and beverage service, Kokomo’s Restaurant & Beach Club in Old Lyme is hoping to attract frequent beachgoers with a new membership option.

The waterfront restaurant and bar, which opened in 2019 and offers seafood, tropical drinks and other Caribbean-inflected dishes, is open to the public daily. But this year, owner Brian Cleary is introducing a premium offering, granting exclusive beach access and amenities to those who opt into the membership model.

With Beach Club membership, guests are treated to VIP service from a reserved lounge chair or private cabana on the members-only area of the beach. They’re connected with a concierge, or “genie,” for reservations or special events, or to request specific food and drinks.

“It’s kind of like having your own private chef and bartender, and private beach area,” Cleary said. Genies will track down off-menu items, too, like if a guest wants a particular type of wine.

Packages start at $80 per month, and include options for access 7 days a week, or weekday or weekend-only memberships. Other members-only amenities include cooking and cocktail classes, tastings and lifestyle events for men, women and couples.

Cleary said the summer of 2020, Kokomo’s second in business, was “very, very busy,” as Connecticut residents sought outdoor dining during COVID-19 and may have scrapped other vacation plans. He plans to sell only 100 memberships, so the beach isn’t unsafely overcrowded.

Kokomo’s is gearing up for another busy summer, Cleary said from the beach Tuesday, where he was placing palm trees in the sand. Diners come for the eclectic fare, heavy on New England-inspired seafood like raw bar selections, fish and chips, clam strips, hot and cold lobster rolls and lobster dinners. Burgers, salads, tacos, steaks and pasta dishes round out the menu.

But with the influence of chef Kinsler Josaime, who was born in the Bahamas and spent more than a decade working in Miami restaurants, the food also features island influences: conch fritters with pineapple habanero aioli, spicy ceviche mixto, tuna poke, grilled octopus salad, grilled red snapper with papaya slaw and sweet plantains.

“One of our taglines is ‘no passport required,’” Cleary said. “We wanted to give Connecticut a place where they could come and have an experience, and if they closed their eyes and didn’t know where they were...they would think they were in St. Thomas. We have the palm trees, the beach, the island feel, the menu.”

Kokomo’s bar complements the cuisine with a wide variety of tropical drinks: “ultimate margaritas” served in a shaker, mules, mai tais, rum punch, daiquiris and a “mezcalita de piña” with mezcal, pineapple, triple sec and jalapeño-cilantro lime juice. Martinis are named for lyrics from the restaurant’s namesake song by the Beach Boys, and Cleary said they’ve boosted the wine list, offering more premium options.

Beyond the creative cuisine and libations, another attraction keeps guests coming back, Cleary said.

“We have the most incredible sunsets,” he said. “You watch the sun set right on the water here. We get a lot of business for that.”

Kokomo’s Restaurant & Beach Club is at 88 Hartford Ave. in Old Lyme. It’s open daily from 11 a.m. to midnight. 860-390-6403, kokomosrestaurant.com .

Learn more about the Beach Club membership options at kokomosrestaurant.com/beachclub .