By Justin Williams
As COVID-19 vaccination rates steadily increase, it appears life might be returning to a “new normal” this summer. This means we can enter public spaces with increasing confidence and support some of Newark’s nightlife establishments that have suffered greatly as a result of the pandemic.
For newcomers and people born and raised here alike, Newark’s nightlife scene(s) is a little less well-known than in neighboring cities for a few reasons:
- Newark’s bars and clubs aren’t centralized in one place like Grove Street in Jersey City or Washington Street in Hoboken.
- Many of Newark’s bars don’t maintain websites, which means you need to be social media savvy (particularly Instagram) to follow their hours and event schedules.
- Our city’s residential segregation by Ward means neighborhood bars are often targeted towards a single ethnicity/nationality. When we see other parts of the city in terms of “them” or “over there,” we miss out on what they have to offer and severely narrow our choices.
- The city’s nightlife can be very mobile and event oriented, which makes being “in the know” more important than other places.
- Newark’s location inevitably invites comparison to New York City, one of the most fun places on earth.
These factors combined with much of Downtown closing as commuters leave, gives people the false impression that Newark’s nightlife either doesn’t exist or consists solely of the Ferry Street corridor. The truth is, Newark has a lot of places to go out, it just takes a little bit of detective work and exploration to find some of them. Here’s my breakdown of some favorite places for food, drinks and fun across the city.
Irish Pubs and Public Houses
When you want a cool beer in a classic setting, Kilkenny Alehouse, McGovern’s Tavern, Bello’s Pub and Grill, Pour Abbey’s* and Redd’s Biergarten are the mainstays. Dominate that jukebox!
For a no frills atmosphere and drinks at midwestern prices, check out The Deep Inn, Krug’s Tavern, People’s Choice Lounge, or El Ejecutivo Bar And Grill.
Want to impress your Tinder date or re-kindle romance with your significant other with a mixed drink? Check out Jimenez Tobacco*, All Points West Distillery, Marcus B&P, Nico (in NJPAC), and Dutch’s Lounge in the Tryp Wyndam Hotel. If you’re a fan of margaritas, newcomer Little Tijuana* is a cool addition to the city’s offerings. It’s technically a liquor store, but Cool Vines has seating and serves drinks until 9 PM in the atrium of the Hahne building. If you’re looking for a cheap date, Clement’s Place has free Jazz and wine (tip the bartender)!
Restaurants That Turn Into Clubs, Have Shows or Events
You’ll need to follow these on social media to have a sense of their event schedules, but Newark has a great range of places that serve one purpose during the day and another a night. Some examples are Divino Tasting Room, Vivo Tapas Kitchen*, Mompou (Flamenco Room)*, Rio Lounge, Castle Sports Bar and Grill, La Rouge, El Merengue, Rincon Centro Americano, CityRub Smokehouse*, St. Joseph Plaza (formerly the priory Jazz Club) and Blueprint Cafe (BYOB)*.
Al Fresco Favorites
For the best outdoor café feel, I like Sagres, Manu’s Kitchen Bar & Sushi Lounge, Iberia and Sihana (BYOB).
Do you want to dance or stay out until 2-3 AM? QXT’s, Lit 21*, Marbella Lounge*, Three Levels Lounge, and The City Lounge are major nightclubs for people looking to turn up. For a more chill atmosphere after midnight, Barcade (reopening in July) has games, cocktails and a great beer selection.
This is an underrated part of Newark’s offerings. Art galleries have receptions and events that extend beyond their normal hours. Follow the Newark Museum of Art, Index Art Center, Gallery Aferro, Project for Empty Space, Akwaaba Gallery, RyArMo Photography Studio and ArtFront Galleries to make sure you don’t miss the next chance to mingle with our great arts community.
Adult skating nights at the Branch Brook Park Roller Skate Center are legendary.
Event and Meetup Groups
Looking to meet likeminded people? Check out groups like Brick City Supper Club, Newark First Fridays, Newark Arts, Brown Girls Bar Crawl, Newark LGBTQ Community Center and Teshuan Glover’s Tastemaker/Gentleman Culture Happy Hours.
COVID-19 has cost us so much in terms of lives and the economy- havoc unknown since the 1918 influenza pandemic; but, I have optimism regarding the coming months. Get vaccinated, see old friends, meet new people, rideshare somewhere you hadn’t been before or immerse yourself in a new culture. This summer we have a once in a lifetime opportunity to re-discover our city, and each other.
*Not comfortable with indoor activities yet? No worries, this venue also has outdoor seating!
Justin Williams is a Newark resident, comedian and producer of the Brick City Comedy Revue. You can find more information at JustinWilliamsComedy.com.
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