One can’t recreate a place like The Stanhope House, known for years for its jammin’ blues bands, then its all-encompassing, go-to music bop stop. COVID-19 has taken its toll, and now it needs community support to survive.
The building was built in 1974 as a roadhouse. “It went through numerous iterations over the years and was a local tavern for well over 100 years,” said general manager Rob Giliberti. “As we know it, in the late ‘60s or early ‘70s music started up featuring folk music, singer/songwriters and a litany of blues greats.”
The Stanhope House saw legends such as Stevie Ray Vaughn scrubbing dishes in the kitchen after a late-night gig, its history goes. Muddy Waters, Mama Wrobleski, and the original Hoochie Coochie Man, Willie Dixon, also performed in the distinctively decorated building.
The Stanhope House was billed as “New Jersey’s Premier Blues Venue” when the current owner, John Klein, purchased it in 2010.
“It just couldn’t bring in the money with solely blues,” Giliberti said. “The die-hard blues fans weren’t so happy, but we had to start bringing in other bands to draw a crowd. This included all kinds of music from hip hop to rock to even heavy metal to attract a younger crowd and pay the bills.”
Giliberti has been the general manager for five years, but his affiliation with The Stanhope House goes way back.
Back in the ‘90s, he owned a pizza/Italian restaurant that also had a barbecue menu.
“I brought it to The Stanhope House, and it went over really well,” he said.
When Giliberti sold the restaurant in 2003, he started bartending, among other jobs, at The Stanhope House. This parlayed into becoming general manager, taking of the kitchen, bar, and staffing services.
The Stanhope House’s production department is in charge of bringing in the bands.
“Prior to the Covid, that staff consisted of six people in charge of social media and securing entertainment,” Giliberti said. “When you’re dealing with regional and national acts, you’re dealing with agencies, so it’s some job. That all came to a grinding halt with the pandemic.”
The Stanhope House’s operating company went under and, said Giliberti, “the parent company that owns the real estate is trying to keep the establishment going.”
A beer garden featuring local solo and duo bands opened outside, on June 18, for part of the week.
“It never took off the way we wanted, and though we did have some successful evenings, it just helped us keep our head above water,” he said.
There were two larger events, each of which brought in $2,000. But to exist from now until spring (when, Giliberti said, they have things in the works) it will take $2,500.
Rise in cases halt plans
Giliberti said they were entertaining the possibility of opening inside two days a week with social distancing, or outside, with 90 guests possible. “But now with restrictions being put in place and the rise in cases in the state, we don’t think it’s a good idea to do that,” he said.
“This weekend will be the last in The Stanhope House Beer Garden until warmer weather prevails,” he said. “We are going out on Sunday with a full day for all. The Skylands Singer/Songwriter Guild will be hosting a jam and Lobster Landing will be serving the incredible freshly prepared lobster rolls.”
Festivities will be in the afternoon both days. There is no cover charge, but a “Support the Stanhope House” bucket will be passed around.
Anyone who wants to support The Stanhope House can do so via its Go Fund Me page: gofundme.com/f/support-a-legend. For updates as things progress, and hopefully change for the better, the go-to place to follow The Stanhope House is via Facebook (facebook.com/stanhopehouse).
“Thanks to all who have supported us in the Beer Garden as we tried to provide entertainment and good times,” Giliberti said. “Please support us this last weekend or through our Go Fund Me so we can continue a great Jersey music tradition.”
“Prior to the Covid, that staff consisted of six people in charge of social media and securing entertainment. When you’re dealing with regional and national acts, you’re dealing with agencies, so it’s some job. That all came to a grinding halt with the pandemic.” General manager Rob Giliberti