Located about an hour south of New York City, an hour north of Philadelphia, and just a block away from the New Brunswick train station, the Court Tavern has existed as a venue since 1981. The Court’s basement immediately became synonymous with the lively dynamic of the New Brunswick music scene, hosting performances by the Smithereens, Opium Vala, and the Blases soon after it opened its doors.
Several generations of local and national bands have found their place here. Legendary acts such as Pavement (whose first show as a band was at the Court Tavern), the Butthole Surfers, and Mudhoney have performed at the Court, and it is also home to local heroes the Bouncing Souls, Thursday, and Gaslight Anthem – just to name a few! The Court has been revered as a dive – a dark decrepit beer joint at the pulse of the scene, and times may have changed, but one thing remains the same: it is a completely unpretentious place where all are welcome, and no other venue feels quite as comfortable and homey.
In 2001, the city attempted to declare the Court Tavern a damaged area in need of redevelopment, enabling the city to take the property by eminent domain. Tremendous opposition followed, resulting in the highest turnout in recent memory to a City Council meeting. The Council relented, allowing the Court Tavern to stay, but the venue unfortunately took another hit in 2010, when it was poised to shut down due to unpaid bills owed to the city. Then – a miracle happened. Around 20 generous benefactors came forward, determined to keep the legend of the Court alive. A benefit concert hosted at the State Theater, headlined by the legendary Patti Smith and The Smithereens, helped repay the loans. But no sooner were these hurdles overcome, until disaster struck once more – in January of 2012, to the disappointment of all who cherished it, the Court suddenly shut it’s doors forever…
….Or for just for 10 short months. In November 2012, the Court Tavern reopened under new owner Mike Barrood, proving this venue is an unstoppable force, an establishment that is as relentless and determined for survival as the underground music scene that it supports. It is one of the last surviving venues in New Brunswick with a cabaret license – which enables the establishment to host live bands with limited restrictions – and some would even say the only surviving relic in the area of an era when great underground music was something you truly had to seek out to find. Here at the Court, we are keeping the spirit of that music alive. The stickers, flyers, writing and photographs on our walls tell the story of countless generations of bands that have their roots here. We are holding on to those roots, while ensuring a nurturing venue for performers to come.