Are NJ diners an endangered species?
The Sage Diner off Route 73 near Church Road has sat deserted for years. It went dark after its former operators filed for bankruptcy in June of 2017. Even though a new buyer came along in 2019 nothing was ever developed on the property. There's now talk of it becoming a marijuana dispensary.
What becomes of Mustache Bill's Diner in Barnegat Light is anyone's guess. It was recently put up for sale after Bill Smith, now 72, announced he was retiring. No guarantee it remains a diner.
The Cherry Hill diner, after being around for nearly 6 decades, just closed down on April 30.
After all those good times, sad times and everything in between the property at 2341 Route 38 in Cherry Hill will become a self-serve car wash.
There's definitely a trend of legendary diners across New Jersey closing down in the past few years. The Marlton Diner is no more. The Penn Queen Diner in Pennsauken closed down six years ago. The Country Club Diner in Vorhees is now an urgent care facility. That Penn Queen Diner is expected to become a Taco Bell.
Then there's the Galaxy Diner in Rahway on St. Georges Ave. That's my hometown so this broke my heart. And I found out on live radio when a caller told me it had closed after not being able to make a comeback from the pandemic shutdowns. Thanks Murphy.
With some classic diners closing and so many diners no longer finding it financially viable to remain open all night (some people's essential rule for a diner to be called a true diner) it makes you wonder if diners could one day go away.
Laugh if you will but at one point in New Jersey history no one would have guessed the almighty drive-in movie theater would fall by the wayside. Now there's only one in the entire state. It took a lot of space to operate a drive-in and land became more valuable. It was more profitable to sell.
Restaurants in general have always had a slim profit margin. With inexpensive menu items and no backing from large corporations diners have it even tougher.
Nick Kallas, owner of the Broad Street Diner in Keyport, predicted correctly that some diners would permanently close during the Covid-19 shutdown. Like the aforementioned Galaxy.
In an interview with Jersey's Best he said, “Many diners won’t be reopening. This is not an easy business, and the pandemic has only made it worse." He says rising prices and delivery issues are impacting local diners in a disastrous way.
So could it happen? I don't know if diners will ever fully go away. Whether diners survive might come down to what your definition of a diner is.
Cheaper fare and fast service might be giving way to places like the TikTok Diner which underwent such a massive makeover they now have baristas and black walnut tables and white terrazzo flooring. Some say it lost a lot of its diner feel. Others disagree.
But if diners start to go fancy to edge out competition and we try calling just any restaurant a diner, then nothing is a diner. If the classic New Jersey diner exists in 2050, great. If they're destined not to, enjoy those disco fries now.
NJ Diners that are open 24/7
Opinions expressed in the post above are those of New Jersey 101.5 talk show host Jeff Deminski only.
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