Technically, a watering hole is a place you go to drink—not to graze or snack or feast on grass-fed beef. And this charming, old-style bar is just that—a place to meet old or new friends for a drink at the bar. You won’t find a menu here or even a bag of chips. What you will find is a friendly, welcoming drinking establishment with a much-used pool table in the back.
I went on a Monday around Happy Hour, and the bar was comfortably abuzz with a group of regulars who clearly knew and liked one another.
And it’s a surprisingly diverse crowd. There was an advertising executive, an anesthesiologist, and finance folks. Terms like “trading investments” and “hedges” hovered above the buzz.
The bar is owned by Anthony “Stick” Romano, a retired police captain and member of the Hudson County Board of Freeholders. The bar has been in his family for more than five decades. The late Louise and Jerry are his aunt and uncle.
Oh, and about that food? Don’t worry. If you want to snack or have a full-fledged dinner, it’s perfectly acceptable to bring food into the bar. And local eateries will deliver. Romano says that Aunt Louise used to cook for her special customers. And Romano will provide food for charity events and other special occasions.
The bar is adorned with classic bar paraphernalia, such as beer and sports logos, movie stills, American flags, 8x10 glossies of various celebs, and vintage cigarette ads. But Louise and Jerry’s has what other bars don’t: wonderful pictures of the old bar and members of the Romano family, including Aunt Louise and Uncle Jerry.
Romano says he thinks of the bar as a kind of Cheers “with various backgrounds and ages. Anyone can come here and feel welcome.” But you can’t take the cop out of the cop. “We serve and protect,” Romano says. “You still have to take care of people. No disrespect of women—women don’t have to worry about being groped—no fights, no arguments over religion or politics.”
The bar has a pool, dart, and softball league, live bands, and a very popular jukebox. Romano says Louise and Jerry’s has “bit off” business from the old Maxwell’s. Paco, who was the chef at Maxwell’s, is a Louise and Jerry’s regular. “I always hang out here,” he says. “It’s been home for me since 1991. It’s like family.” He’s drinking Grey Goose and Budweiser from a can.
Romano says folks come into the bar after church and before weddings. “On Christmas Eve, we can’t even close,” he says.
The bar has a big TV and a list of “Freaky Beers.”
Summing up his beloved family establishment, Romano says, “It’s an iconic institution.”—Kate Rounds
Louise and Jerry’s
329 Washington St.
PHOTOS BY Terri Saulino Bish