Farewell to the Claddagh

Photo via Asbury Park Press

Another beloved institution to its locale has bitten the dust. Demolition began a few days ago and continues today on the Claddagh, an Irish pub in Highlands, NJ. I only visited there once, probably four or five years ago, but it was a cool place and I enjoyed driving past it seeing a little piece of Ireland sticking up in the middle of this beach town dotted with so many seafood restaurants.

My incredibly Irish friend invited me there for drinks one afternoon before having dinner back at his house. The Claddagh was within walking distance, which was perfect. We sampled a few beers from their extensive list. I tried two new ones that day: Smithwicks and Allagash White. The former remains the only dark beer I enjoy, while the latter I felt was one of the more delicious beers I ever had. The kitchen was closed at the time we went, but our bartender was very kind, including offering us a makeshift flight to sample smaller servings of additional beers when we could not make up our mind on what we wanted next.

I remember my friend and I were the only people in the place, save for a trio of people in another room where, if memory serves me, there was a pool table. It was quiet and relaxed. Reviews I have read reveal that they actually served decent food and had a pretty good music scene at one point. Recent reviews note a drop in clientele and business, which ultimately led to its closing.

Supposedly, the “scene” at the Claddagh could get pretty rough back in the day. A friend of mine who is now a retired police officer worked one of his first murder cases there. I told him one day that I had just been there, adding, “Your territory”. He looked at me and fondly said, “Ah, yes, the Claddagh. That was my first murder. There was a body in the bathroom and had to step over two more just to get in there.” This was decades ago, though, and by all accounts the pub was a little less raucous in recent years.

I was hoping that a new business would enter the building because of its unique exterior, but alas, it is being torn down with people speculating condos will be built in its spot. That sounds par for the course in New Jersey.


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