JERSEY CITY, N.J. — Brazicki’s Tavern, which has served as a local hangout for the Jersey City Heights for 72 years, is shutting its doors for good, ending another chapter in Jersey City’s history.
The Liberty Avenue bar, located in a quiet residential neighborhood sandwiched between the bustle of Tonnelle Avenue and Kennedy Boulevard, has been run by the Brazickis since 1945, when the family took over the place from Martha Stewart’s grandfather.
The impending closure of the bar — the location for countless pig roasts and political meet-and-greets — marks the loss of another unofficial Jersey City landmark. In recent years, longtime eateries like Puccini’s, Casa Dante, Sunny’s and Crazy Greek have all closed, while the 67-year-old Casino in the Park banquet hall is likely to see new management in January.
“We’re losing another old-time institution,” said Councilman Rich Boggiano, who was friendly with the Brazicki family’s late patriarch, Tom. “And there’s so few of them around.”
Sean Connors, a Jersey City cop and former state assemblyman, told The Jersey Journal (http://bit.ly/2vdV9ny) “I’ve always felt like one of the Brazickis. They never locked the door, they always unlocked it.”
The story of Brazicki’s Tavern starts in 1945, when Anthony and Agnes Brazicki took over a bar run by Frank Kostyra, Stewart’s grandfather. Anthony moved to Jersey City when he was run out of Buffalo for bootlegging, according to Frank Brazicki, Anthony’s great-grandson.
“He was a tailor by trade,” Frank, 40, told The Jersey Journal. “If you went in to get your jacket fixed, you walked out with a pint in the pocket.”
After moving to Jersey City, Anthony ran a bar on Van Horne Street in the Lafayette section and lived in an apartment upstairs. The Jersey Journal reported in 1944 that the city forced Anthony to close his tavern for five days because he allowed his wife to tend bar. A year later the couple took over Kostyra’s bar at 153 Liberty Ave.
Anthony’s son (Frank R.) started running Brazicki’s with his wife, Phyllis, in 1947 when Frank R. returned home from the war, and his son Tom took over the business in 1991 with his wife, Julie.
In charge now are Tom and Julie’s children: Frank, Glenn and twins Karen and Lauren. Brazicki’s Tavern was their home, literally: they lived in the apartment upstairs and they thought of the bar as their living room. They knew the regulars by their first name and preferred drink: Fred That Drinks The Budweiser, or Ruth That Drinks The Blue Moon. They could tell you where each regular sat, what time they would be summoned home for dinner and when they would return for a nightcap and to watch the ballgame.
“There was always someone here,” said Karen, 29. “The guys would have no problem getting up and doing homework with us or, you know, we’d be running around. It’s more than just customers, you understand what I’m saying? It’s like aunts and uncles.”
Every important moment in the Brazicki family’s life — christenings, birthday parties, repasts — happened at their tavern. If it started somewhere else, it made its way back there. And not just for the family — for the entire neighborhood.
“If the guy-down-the-block’s mother died and people knew about it, well he usually ended up here with his family and people were here to help him,” Frank said.
But after 70 years, the business has changed. People are headed elsewhere for drinks, Downtown mostly, the Brazickis said. Cocktail bars are hot now, and Brazicki’s Tavern is a bar bar. No frills.
Years ago you’d find at least a half-dozen customers hanging out here every weekday evening, Frank said. On Monday just one customer stood at the bar, sipping a beer while Billy Joel’s “A Matter of Trust” blasted from the jukebox.
So when developer Mack-Cali offered them a good price for their liquor license, they decided to sell (if the deal goes through, Mack-Cali would use the license for a different location). Tom died in June 2016 and his children promised they’d run the bar themselves and decide on its future in a year. They’re not selling the building — they’re keeping it as a home.
Frank described the family’s feelings as bittersweet.
“The reason why we made the decision was to make sure our mother would be comfortable for the rest of her life,” he said. “So when we look at it that way, we’re all OK.”
The Brazicki family invites everyone to bid goodbye at the bar on Sunday, Sept. 3 starting at noon.
Information from: The Jersey Journal , http://www.nj.com/jjournal