My family and I have been to Block Island for five summers in a row now, and we’ve ended up at Captain Nick’s all five times.
It’s the quintessential Island watering hole, with live music and great drinks out on the patio during the day, and incredible bands and dancing inside at night.
Captain Nick’s really is THE place to go if you’re looking to experience what Block Island nightlife is all about.
Back in 2020 Captain Nick’s changed ownership – it was purchased by a couple of locals, Christopher & Jessica Willi.
I caught up with Christopher recently to ask him about their purchase, and see how business is going. Here’s what he had to say…
Interview with the Owner
// Exclusive Stay New England interview with Christoper Willi, owner of Captain Nick’s Rock-n-Roll Bar, located on Block Island, Rhode Island //
Hello! Tell us little about yourself.
I first came to Block Island in 1991 to work during my URI college years. I ended up working for the Town of New Shoreham for 17 years.
In 2000 I started a fishing guide business and tackle shop, Block Island Fishworks, which we still run today.
I married my wife Jessica, whom I met out here, in 2007. Her family has been in the restaurant and hospitality business since the 70’s. She is currently the Tourism Director for Block Island.
I purchased Captain Nicks in 2020 from a good friend and have run it since.
Were you in the hospitality business before? If not, what did you do?
I was in the service industry through the Town as Recreation Director and Harbormaster, as well as through my fishing charter business (which is really the entertainment business).
I became directly involved with the hospitality business with Captain Nick’s, fortunately with help from the previous owner and his wife, as well as my wife who has been in the business since a child.
What inspired you to open a bar? Take us through the early days. What was that like?
It’s something I’ve always wanted to do, probably since visiting an uncle in Illinois that owned a bar – I was 15 and I stuck with me.
This opportunity came about unexpectedly and we jumped in during Covid – 2020. We made the best of it and hit the ground running in 2021 and have loved it since.
Captain Nicks is an iconic music establishment with a lot of stories, and I spent most of my 20’s there…to own it is surreal, and a privilege.
You’re on an elevator. Doors open in less than a minute. How do you describe Captain Nick’s to the person standing next to you?
An eclectic spacious two story room and intimate music venue with fantastic people.
A complete good vibe brought by our employees and patrons.
It’s a dive bar, beer cans and no glassware.
You’ll be drinking with full tattooed septum pierced 20 something’s and a ‘yachty’ decked out in the latest Helly Hansen – and be having a blast because you met your new best friend.
Why Block Island? What makes it such a special place?
Too many things… but the never ending beauty, the sense of community, and our returning visitors we see year after year.
And sunrises – they’re better than the sunsets.
What’s the best part of owning a bar? The worst part?
We love seeing our regulars and service industry workers and the good energy they bring. We have a great, talented employees.
And the music is really good every summer – Disco, dueling pianos, country, rock n roll, every week… we strive to get good music every summer.
The season ends – I don’t like it ending.
Then there’s dealing with insurance renewals, vendor agreements, etc…that all sucks for small business owners.
What are you most excited about right now with your business?
We are always excited for next summer!
Getting the band and entertainment lineup is fun and watching it all unfold over the summer months.
What’s the most unusual/bizarre request you’ve gotten from a patron?
I work most nights at the door. There isn’t anything that shocks me anymore.
You need to remember that people are on vacation, maybe the only one they have all year – and they are here to have fun.
We are there to make sure they do it safely. So use your imagination.
I remind them they are on 10 square miles of dirt 13 miles out in the Atlantic Ocean, and we have a tiny little jail cell…so make good choices (and we help them make them).
When you next have time off, where will you be?
We reside full time on Block Island, our kids go to school here so when we have vacation we usually go skiing up North or in Utah.
We also visit Florida once or twice.
What’s the future hold?
More of what we do best – good music and good vibes!