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Thursday, July 31, 2014
Personal Reflections ... Photo ...

One of my brother’s favorite local hang-out places bit the dust and closed for good on Wednesday. I liked it too, even though I was more the quiet guy who mostly sat and observed while my brother did all of the talking and socializing. I pretty much kept to my beer or occasional meal (they did serve good food, even had a number of dishes quite acceptable to a vegetarian like myself). Still, the Riverside Bar and Grill in Clifton, NJ was always a comfortable place to spend an hour or two on a weekend.

Unfortunately, bar-restaurants in northern NJ come and go quite quickly, especially in a bad economy. The Riverside made a good run at it, lasting for about 9 years. But business never totally recovered from the 2008-2010 recession slump, and a falling-out between the partners a few years back basically sealed the Riversides’ fate. The marketing guy was the odd man out, and the remaining partner, Joe, made a valiant attempt to keep things going. But the losses never went away, and Joe finally had to cut his losses. I think that everyone who regularly patronized the Riverside owes Joe a big vote of gratitude for hanging in as long as he did. And Tara too, the “team captain” who made sure that the customers were treated right no matter what.

So here are a few going-away memories from the final night, Wednesday July 30.

The staff was kept busy all evening, and no one went away hungry or thirsty.

There was time for a lot of group shots with the staff and the regulars.

Here’s my brother having a “last supper”. He said that the fried calamari (which he is digging into here) was about the best around, freshly cut and nicely balanced between chewy and tender.

So goodbye Riverside, and everyone who worked there and hung out there. Nice places like this are hard to find and are never appreciated until they’re gone. I will miss you.

POSTSCRIPT, March 2016: The building has been up for sale for almost two years, with a big FOR SALE sign in the window. But that sign recently came down. A check of some local real estate broker websites shows the property being listed, but its status is now “Off Market”. In other words, someone recently bought the place, but without its liquor license. That was seized by the State in early 2015 and auctioned off so as to cover unpaid taxes. The door awnings with the Riverside logo have just been taken down, and there is now a yellow construction permit taped in the window. The permit is for “INTERIOR DEMO”. Also there is a big dumpster in the back of the property, already full of rubble. I don’t know what the plans are for this place, but my guess is that it won’t be a restaurant or a bar, i.e. the new owner is converting the building to allow for some other kind of small business use. That’s my guess [AND IT’S WRONG!! SEE BELOW]. Here’s a recent shot of the premises:

mid-2016 UPDATE !! On-the-ground intelligence has just revealed that the new owner will be opening a Cuban restaurant here !!! But it will take a while, as they plan to make major renovations to the building, including a new wing. They need more space to make it work (one of the problems that brought down the old Riverside).

EARLY 2017 UPDATE: The Cuban restaurant work had ground to a halt during the summer, but this past October (2016), a big construction dumpster appeared in the lot, and reports came in of activity sightings (including people bringing boxes into the premises), and lights on during the evening. These sightings have continued into early February (2017); there is still a big dumpster (probably not the same one) that is filled with junk and plastic bags, and I saw a plumber’s truck parked in the lot just the other day. Seems pretty clear that someone is putting money into the place. As to what the end result will be — we shall see, hopefully in the spring.

APRIL 2017 UPDATE: Now the BIG WORK begins!! They are expanding the building in the front parking lot, pushing out the front by about 20 feet. As of mid-month, the foundations had been poured and the new walls were being framed out. Obviously, things ain’t ever gonna be the same . . .

JUNE 2017: It’s official, the expanded and heavily rebuilt former “Riverside” building is about to become the home of a new Rumba Cubana restaurant. After a few months of feverish construction work (which still isn’t finished as of June 17), the signs have come out; one for hiring and the other saying “opening soon”. This is indeed a Cuban restaurant, with two current locations in North Bergen and Gutenberg, deep in the heart of Hudson County, along with another new location under construction in Jersey City. It’s just a matter of a few weeks until the place re-opens.

Will the Rumba concept successfully transplant to suburban Clifton? Another local Latin-flavored chain, Noches de Columbia, recently opened up two restaurants within a few miles of the old Riverside location (one in downtown Passaic and another in Botany Village on the northern Passaic/Clifton border). They both seem popular, which would auger well for the new Rumba. On the other hand, perhaps the “non-Mexican Latin” restaurant market in this neck of the ‘burbs is now saturated. Yes, I realize that Columbia and Cuba are very different cultures and cuisines, but to many of us suburban gringos, they get filed in the same mental drawer. This is going to be interesting!

EARLY AUGUST, 2017: Almost exactly three years to the day following the close of the Riverside, the site has been re-born as the third Rumba Cubana (with the other two in North Bergen and Guttenberg). It opened sometime this past week. I wish the Rumba well, but it basically has nothing to do with what the Riverside once was. You can’t go home again.

◊   posted by Jim G @ 7:06 pm      

  1. Jim, Sorry to hear that the Riverside Bar and Grille has closed. Another “small business” that can’t continue. It’s really a shame that such good places seem inevitably to have to close as the owners cannot continue to absorb losses.

    I am reading about the economic structures back in the year one, 2000 years ago. Oddly enough, they have a strange kind of resemblance to what is going on now in the global, and U.S. (and I presume the rest of the world’s countries), economies. This resemblances is shockingly similar, except for different names given to groups, etc.

    A hundred years ago such small businesses would do well for perhaps several generations. These days they manage to eke out a living for a few years and then are forced to close. I agree with you; it’s a shame. I feel bad for those who worked there who now have to find other jobs; after that I feel bad for those who won’t have the pleasure of a place they enjoyed and where they could have a good time.

    Sorry to hear about the closing of this place you and your brother liked so much. MCS

    Comment by Mary S. — August 1, 2014 @ 2:19 pm

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