Famed NJ Rock Club The Court Tavern Mysteriously Shuttered

A New Brunswick rock club known for its gritty atmosphere, cheap beer and a basement that featured some of the most exciting rock bands to come out of New Jersey, has shut down after more than 30 years.

The Court Tavern mysteriously closed its doors more than a week ago, shocking music lovers and members of the community.

Court Tavern owner Bob Albert hasn’t responded to repeated requests for comment from WNYC. Information on its Web site about upcoming shows has been replaced with a simple message: “As of January 17th, 2012 The Court Tavern is Indefinitely CLOSED.”

The Gaslight Anthem, the Smithereens, the Roadside Graves, Screaming Females, Tiny Lights, Vivian Girls are among the bands that played at the storied music venue.

“In a sense, we considered it our cavern club. It was a place where we could go and play any time we wanted to,” said Smithereens drummer Dennis Diken, who recorded a live album at the club in 2008. “It gave us a chance to try out new material, to build a following and have an awful lot of fun.”

The club has had financial problems in the past. In 2010, it held a benefit concert that featured the likes of Patti Smith, the Smithereens and the Slaves of New Brunswick.

A spokesman for New Brunswick Mayor Jim Cahill, said the Court Tavern owed about $44,000 in back taxes, water and sewer bills. But he said it was nothing that would force the city to close it. The city sold the tax lien to a third party at the end of 2011.

It also has faced other threats to its existence: in 2001, its fight against eminent domain was featured in the 2009 documentary “The Last Bastions of Rock.”

The closure of the Court Tavern follows a long list of other rock clubs that have disappeared from the New Brunswick music scene, including the Melody Bar and the Roxy.