FLEMINGTON, NJ - Whenever this pandemic is over and things get “back to normal” in Flemington, one of the historic borough’s mainstays will not be a part of the revival.
After almost three decades at its home on Route 202, Jake’s Restaurant & Bar has closed its doors forever.
The announcement was made on April 9 with a post on the business’s Facebook page by owner Stephen Little and Executive Chef Bill Kinslow.
“We want to sincerely thank you, our beloved guests, and the local Flemington community that we have been so proud to be a part of for these past 30 years,” they posted. “You all have been the heart and soul of Jake’s. And you’ve made this an unforgettable ride.”
The two men reflected on when they first opened the doors of Jake’s in 1991, sharing a vision for a gathering place where friends and families could enjoy a good meal, in a casual environment, with the quality and consistency of an upscale dining establishment.
Evidenced by the hundreds and hundreds of heartfelt comments posted online by its customers, it is apparent that through the years, the vision Kinslow and Little had for Jake’s was achieved tenfold as locals gathered there for holidays, celebrations, endings and, of course, those Monday prime rib nights.
Then COVID-19 hit New Jersey hard. As a step toward social distancing, Gov. Phil Murphy ended dining-in options for restaurants throughout the state in mid-March.
So like many other eateries, Jake’s adapted by offering takeout service only.
Even then, facing a major loss of revenue, it was clear that Little’s and Kinslow’s concern was not for themselves, but for the community they loved.
“I can tell you that we are here to help,” they wrote. “If you need food delivered to you or an elderly person, we would be honored to provide home delivery. Maybe this (pandemic) is causing financial difficulties for some. Please call or DM us on social media. I assure you as long as Jake’s has the resources, we will do what we can to help our community.”
Shortly thereafter, the decision was made to end takeout service. Instead, Jake’s began offering free “Grab & Go” meals with a suggested donation of $10 for the Jake’s Employee Fund.
That first weekend, they prepared 300 meals and were sold out in under two hours. They raised over $5,000 for their staff and thanked the neighborhood for “stepping up during this difficult time.”
With no end to the current state mandated guidelines in sight, and life on the other side of this crisis uncertain, the decision to shut down permanently was made.
In closing, Little and Kinslow wrote, “All of these memories are so near and dear to our hearts. We will always cherish the laughs and times we shared together. Thank you again for being part of the Jake’s family. It's been both our honor and pleasure to serve you.”
Little and Kinslow did not respond to a direct request for comment.