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Where Were the Best Rock Clubs in New Jersey?

flikr user FredMikeRudy
flikr user FredMikeRudy

Perhaps the rock club scene in Jersey ain’t what it used to be.

I wonder if it has more to do with changing tastes in music; the areas in which the clubs are located, or a diminishing clientele.

In any event, two of New Jersey’s iconic clubs either will close or, due to Sandy, not be able to reopen at all.

According to this, Maxwell’s, a Hoboken rock institution, is set to close at the end of July.

The lease to Maxwell’s, which has been at the heart of the rock scene in Hudson County for decades, is up at the end of July. But the decision to close the club at 1039 Washington St. isn’t the landlord’s.

“We were offered a renewal with rates that weren’t necessarily onerous,” says Todd Abramson, the club’s booking agent and co-owner. “But after much thought, given the changing nature of Hoboken and the difficulties of trying to run a business in this town, we decided it was time.”

Maxwell’s, says Abramson, will invite back some old friends to finish its remarkable run.

“On July 31, I think we’re going to go out the way we came in — with the band ‘a’.” a, which featured members of the Bongos and Glenn Morrow, who’d later found Hoboken’s Bar/None Records, was the first act to ever take the stage in the restaurant’s back room. (The Bongos will also perform on July 31.)

That was a very different era in the Mile Square city. Rents were relatively affordable, and the boom in condominium development hadn’t yet seized Hudson County by the collar. Hoboken became an arts town, and a rock scene would soon thrive there.

In recent years, parking at the north end of Hoboken has become increasingly tough, which has posed a challenge to touring bands —- and their fans.

As Hoboken has changed, the club and restaurant has lost much of its initial clientele.

“The culture in Hoboken is driven by TV now. A lot of the bars downtown are fighting with each other for who has the most giant TVs. That’s what Hoboken nightlife has become.”

And to the south, there’s the legacy of Joey Harrison’s Surf Club, which may not open at all due to the damage the club has sustained because of Sandy.

According to this:


The owner of the landmark Ortley Beach nightclub, wrecked by superstorm Sandy, feels the club is getting a bad deal from the club’s insurance company.

The club has filed a lawsuit in Ocean County Superior Court against insurer Executive Risk Specialty Insurance Company, a division of CHUBB, contesting the lack of coverage and the timeliness of the coverage.

Surf Club attorney Chip Merlin in a statement said, “Many business owners and residents got bad advice and simply wrong advice about the availability or need for excess flood insurance coverage.”

Dolores Barcelona, speaking for Joey Barcelona from their home in Miami, would not say if the future of the club hinges on whether or not the insurance company pays up.

“We’re fighting to get it rebuilt,” Dolores Barcelona said. “We know people who are having the same issues with their insurance companies.”
The complex suffered damages of more than $1 million, said a spokesperson for the club.

So chalk it up to diminishing clientele, changing environment of the area, or the aftermath of Sandy, and you can see how the rock scene in Jersey is losing some of its iconic venues.

Which ones were some of the best?

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