NJ’s local bars are surviving a rough market
It may be the last call for scores of neighborhood bars across the country, but there are plenty of local watering holes in New Jersey that refuse to follow suit.
The latest Nielsen numbers estimated that more than 600 neighborhood bars close each month, perhaps falling victim to the rise of chain restaurants, as well as breweries that feature meals and snacks.
While the appeal of the neighborhood bar - where the bartender knows your name, as well as your drink, and you probably know at least one of the patrons in the stools next to you - was dwindling elsewhere, Marlboro resident Felix Weinstein said that's the exact scene that had been missing from nearby Manalapan for years.
So he and his mother Ilana opened Locals Bar on Gordons Corner Road earlier this year to quench the residents' thirst.
"We're trying to bring something back that was gold," Weistein told New Jersey 101.5FM. "Everybody was crying for something to open up right here, for the kids to stop going to the Jersey Shore, crossing Route 9...going down to Freehold."
And when the doors opened in June, there was no shortage of customers. Business has been progressing ever since - so much that they needed to expand. The newest room features billiards, foosball, darts and a lounge area.
Customers are currently allowed to bring in food from outside shops and vendors as the Weinsteins begin the process of implementing a full service kitchen.
Quality food, meanwhile, has been the key for Michael Browner, who owns Miracle Pub on Rt. 37 in Toms River.
When Browner bought the bar 10 years ago, there was no menu in place, but he's a certified chef, so that changed immediately.
"People are driven by the food," Browner said. "A lot of people come in here expecting to get just mozzarella sticks and chicken fingers, but I actually have steaks, chicken dishes, wraps, paninis and prime rib dinners."
And those entrees, Browner said, feature the same quality as a tablecloth restaurant, but at a fraction of the price.
"I'm very price-friendly," he said. "If I raise prices, (customers) are going to come once a week. If they come two to three times a week, it's a win for them and a win for me."
About 70 percent of Miracle's business comes from steady customers or "regulars." The rest is made up of new clientele, and Browner tells his staff to treat every patron as if they were serving themselves.
We recently asked our readers and social media followers to name their favorite local bars. Here are some of the responses:
- Bryson's Pub, Pennsauken
- Chester House, Manville
- The Idle Hour Bar and Grill, Point Pleasant Beach
- The Jug Handle Inn, Cinnaminson
- R Mack's Publick House - Oaklyn
- St. George's Pub, Brigantine
- Tower Tavern, Westville
- Villari's By the Pike, Laurel Springs
Favorite bar not on the list? Comment below and tell us about your favorite local watering hole.