I had occasion to visit one of my favorite bars yesterday evening, the illustrious Liberty Tavern.
The Lib has changed a lot from when I first discovered its dimly lit and sparsely stocked, mint green painted interior. Changed for the better, to be sure. I would say it has brightened up a bit (but not too much), food is available (proper pub chow) and you can expect to be in mixed company (so watch yer manners, boy).
Some things I noticed last night on the plus side of the equation:
- The pool table is still there and center stage (for uninhibited play).
- The jukebox has a fine selection of good ol’ rock music.
- The shuffleboard table is in place, properly blessed with whatever it is they bless it with; and free. Bravo.
- There are still some moldings and door jambs with the original mint green paint.
- A great bartender. Thanks for the shot, Ron.
- A good representation of locals. Nice to meet you, Mikey T.
Some things on the minus side:
- The phone booth looks to be more of a prop or storage for holiday decorations than a working device.
- The dart board was down.
I am quite fond of the old neighborhood bar. A place that has been there since forever, that everyone knows, is comfortable, low key, always has a cold beer on tap and a shot waiting. The kind of place where your dad, and maybe even his dad used to hang out. A place that has witnessed the changes of the neighborhood around it, while keeping its hallowed status.
I’m sure you will join me, as I raise my glass and toast the Liberty Tavern. A fine drinking establishment. SLAINTE!
Some regular readers will recall the post below that I cut/pasted from the 2011 page.
The Liberty Tavern
As long as we are on the subject of imbibement and our favorite establishments for imbibing, I felt it only respectful to mention the Liberty Tavern, or The Lib, as it was know to those of us who imbibed there regularly.
The Lib was very much your typical local tavern. Indeed it had been there since the ol’ man’s younger years. A stalwart of the neighborhood, it was the kind of place that opened at 9 am, to accommodate the night shift.
It was circa 1981. I remember coming home, shortly after moving to our new home in Onion, NJ and regaling the ol’ man with tales of this great place I found.
“Oh, the Lib? Yeah, I used to drink there when I was your age. Are the walls still that same color green they use in the high school?”
Actually, yes, they were, at the time. I was drinking there for years before they painted them.
The Lib was a great bar to cut your teeth on. It was easy walking distance from home, safe, low-key and cost effective. But it was not the place where you would go to meet girls. In fact, it was years before a female within our age range walked in.
When the ‘crew and I first began frequenting the Lib, a 6 oz. glass of Pabst Blue Ribbon draft cost ten cents. No, I didn’t miss-key. Ten cents. And every third glass was on the house. Where the hell are you going to find a place that does that anymore? There were other perks, as well. If the drink or shot of booze you ordered was the last one out of the bottle, it was free. Between that and other patrons buying me drinks, there were times when I have went into the lib with $10, walked out a few hours later, puked in the parking lot and still had change in my pocket.
In the beginning, the choices of libations were few. There was Fleischman’s gin and vodka, Calvert whiskey (which sucks), a few cordials and schnapps, maybe bottle of VO or Canadian Club. Booze from another era, to be sure. But the clientele was of the older crowd. I was the first to ask them to stock Jack Daniels. Then, as time went on and more people my age found out about my little hideaway, the liquor choices grew. The Lib may have started out as an ‘old man’s bar’ but by the time the ‘crew and I were done it had transformed.
As far as entertainment went, there were three things constant – the pool table, the shuffle board and the juke box. Pinball machines, video games and the dart board came and went. But at least you could count on the two standards. The juke box didn’t contain a song, not one, which I wanted to hear. In fact, I didn’t recognize most of the artists listed.
The pool table was an old 6 foot bar table. It’s exactly what you would expect in an old bar. The felt was green/blue faded to gray, but in good shape. The frame was scratched and worn, but sturdy. And this was one of the few bars where you could find a queue that was straight. Smacking the queue on the side of the table because you screwed up a shot was frowned upon.
When I first frequented the Lib, there was an old guy, Eddie that would play one handed and beat you, or anyone else, every time. He would even use the short stick for fun. Unfortunately this was well before the snooker playing era in my life. The lib was a nest of very good pool players and I could have learned a few things. My friend Ziggy, however, would jump right in and battle for his every shot. Zig did learn a few things from those old guys.
There was a tiny, smelly bathroom with an undersized window that was always opened, even in the winter. The walls were cracked plaster, painted over about a dozen times and the floor was little squares of white and black tile, also cracked. There was sticker on the mirror from the town Health Department commanding that ‘Every employee must wash hands before returning to work.’ Every word was crossed out except for ‘Every employee must work.’
This was where I first encountered the ‘ice filled urinal’. I just couldn’t get that. Why did they put ice in the urinal? Sure, it was a welcome distraction, blasting the individual cubes to their demise, like some kind of post-consumption video game, but I couldn’t see any other purpose. And what bar or bartender is going to be thinking along those lines anyway?
“Let’s put a scoop of ice cubes into the urinal to give the boys something to do while they’re standing there.”
Not likely. A few years later that I found out it was a way of keeping the smell down, albeit not a very good one.
The Lib had a phone booth. Not just a pay phone on a wall, but an actual booth where you could sit down, close the door, light up a smoke (you were allowed to smoke in bars back then and the booth had an exhaust fan) and jot down notes (there was also a small shelf). The phone book was even in good enough shape to use. It had a working phone number, so you could also receive calls. You could order a pizza and have it delivered to the bar (Again, this was back in the 80′s, well before cell phones had been conceived).
Eventually life took me away from Onion, NJ and the Lib. Once in a while I would stop back in, on my way back from the airport or to meet up with my friend Ziggy. Of course, the bar had changed considerably. Even the shuffle board was removed. The pool table was still there. The clientele had completely switched over to a younger, louder crowd, complete with girls. Even the bartenders are younger than me. Blenders whirl, fruity bullshiate drinks are the norm and you won’t find any old dudes in the corners hunched over a shot and a beer. There is not a bottle of Calvert or Fleishman’s anything on the shelf.
If you are flying past the town of Onion on Route 78 east, about a mile after the Maplewood exit (whatever number that is) and you look through the break in the sound barrier that is the entrance ramp, you can see the neon bar signs. If you’re so inclined, stop in sometime. Tell them you know me. They won’t know who the hell you are talking about, but it might get you a laugh.