Maxwell’s Tavern in Hoboken, Once Historic Rock Venue, Announces Closing (Again)

Photo via Maxwell's Tavern/Facebook. (Credit: Dominick Schwarz)

For the second time in five years, the once-iconic rock club Maxwell’s of Hoboken has announced its closure.

On Saturday, February 3, Maxwell’s Tavern said via Facebook that they would be holding their two finals shows on Friday, February 9 and Saturday, February 10.

“Friends & Fans of Maxwell’s[:] As many of you know we are in the process of winding down operations at Maxwell’s, and as such we, in combination with our dear friend Dave Entwistle would like to announce two last special nights of music.”

After the club shuttered in July 2013, it was purchased by an ownership led by Pete Carr and Evan Dean. While they planned to reinvent the space as an artisanal pizza place and bar, they later scrapped the idea and tried to bring the space back to its musical roots.

“By 2015, the new owners abandoned the idea and hired local musician and promoter Dave Entwhistle to rebuild the stage and re-engage with the local music community,” according to the Hudson Reporter. “But the front of the house seemed no different than other Hoboken bars and the restaurant never established a following. And after Entwhistle left his position as booker in mid-2017, the club started relying more on trivia nights and country and blues showcases, leaving fewer spots on the club’s calendar for local music.”

According to Billboard, the restaurant is currently listed for $1.3 million.

Beginning in 1978, the original Maxwell’s featured a tiny performance space yet played host to some of the largest indie bands of the 1980s and 1990s, including Nirvana, R.E.M., The Replacements and Hüsker Dü.

A poster announcing the Yo La Tengo Hanukkah show on December 12, 2012. (Photo by Donny Levit)

However, the club was a bellwether for the potent Hoboken music scene, considered home turf by New Jersey bands such as Yo La Tengo, The Feelies, The Cucumbers, The Bongos, and more. In addition, Jersey native and film director John Sayles shot the video for Bruce Springsteen’s “Glory Days” at the venue.

“I moved to Hoboken in 1984. Maxwells was already a happening scene. My first visit there was in 1980-81 to see this band from the West Coast — the Red Hot Chili Peppers,” musician John Williams, who played bass for The Cucumbers told New Jersey Next. “I dug the club, but it would take me another few years to play there. I joined a band called The Cucumbers and we played there fairly regularly through the rest of the ’80s. Like so many clubs on that circuit — Danceteria, Hitsville, Aldo’s, The Meadowbrook, The Ritz, The Mudd Club and CB’s, The Dirt Club – all [are] gone. Some say real estate prices. Move in the business folks, move out the poor, move out the artists. And whatta ya got? 50 shades of grey paint.”

The Cucumbers were part of the exciting Hoboken music scene in the 1980s.
[L-R] Jon Fried, Yuergen Renner, Deena Shoshkes and John Williams. (Photo credit: John Niedzwiecki)

Starting in 2001 and happening almost every year until 2012, Yo La Tengo played their Hanukkah shows series. The eight evenings featured comedians, special guests (Ray Davies of the Kinks, Alex Chilton of Big Star, David Byrne of the Talking Heads) and were beloved because they served as fundraisers for a variety of causes selected by the band.

When Yo La Tengo closed out their final shows in 2013, band co-founder Ira Kaplan summed up what many bands have said about Maxwell’s: “This band does not exist without this club.”

Georgia Hubley (center) and Ira Kaplan (right) of Yo La Tengo play a Hanukkah show in December 2012. (Photo by Donny Levit)

On Friday, February 9, Maxwell’s is hosting a farewell open mic night. On Saturday, February 10, Maxwell’s will close out with One for the Road! which they describe as “an extraordinary night of music featuring Deaf Rhino, Waylaid, One Hundred Thousand, Chevonne and The Fuzz, Jaime Rose Band, Liam Brown & The Pounds, and Wailing Denims. Doors to back room open at 7pm. Reggae rockers CC Roots – aka Cecilia Celeste will be jamming in the front bar starting at 10pm. Entry to front bar and back room will be FREE but is 21+ only.”

“It was our youth. It was vibrant. It was beautiful. But now it’s gone … I will miss Maxwells, but I’ve still got all those memories locked inside. So many bands,” added Williams.