Arts & Entertainment

Open Mic’ers Bid Farewell to Poor Herbie’s of Madison; Pub Closes After More Than 25 Years

Musicians perform Bob Dylan's "Wagon Wheel" at the final Poor Herbie's open mic night. Credits: Lindsay Ireland
Julia Kirk performs Childish Gambino's "Redbone" for her first Poor Herbie's performance. "This is my first time here, and I already feel like I'm part of a community," she said. Credits: Lindsay Ireland
Musicians perform at the final Poor Herbie's open mic night before the pub closed on Dec. 5. Credits: Lindsay Ireland
A rendition of Miley Cyrus's "Wrecking Ball." Credits: Lindsay Ireland
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Poor Herbie's of Madison closed its doors after more than 25 years in Madison. The Mullins family, who owned the pub since 1992, left a message thanking local patrons at the restaurant's front window. Credits: Lindsay Ireland
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A photo collage memorialized many special moments at Poor Herbie's open mic nights throughout the years. Credits: Lindsay Ireland
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The pub was decked out for Christmas despite closing for good on Dec. 5. Credits: Lindsay Ireland
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Open mic'ers pose for one last photo inside their favorite bar. Credits: Lindsay Ireland
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Credits: Lindsay Ireland

When Dan Baldan began hosting the Poor Herbie’s Thursday open mic night three years ago, things started out slow. Over the next few years, Madison’s go-to pub was flooded with musicians, music lovers and local regulars every Thursday night, and the restaurant’s last open mic event was no different. 

At least 100 people showed up at Poor Herbie’s on Nov. 30 for a final night of music and singing before Madison’s only Irish pub closed its doors Dec. 5.  

“To be able to have the last open mic and that kind of turnout and to hear how much it meant to other people really felt nice,” Baldan said. “I’m very appreciative of Poor Herbie’s for allowing me to get my start there and for sticking with (the open mic event) to allow it to become a neighborhood sensation.”

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Baldan currently hosts a Tuesday night open mic in Morristown and works as a server at GK's Red Dog Tavern. After talking with the pub's new owners, Baldan—whose father was a part owner of Poor Herbie’s before Judy and Dennis Mullins purchased it in 1992—said he hopes his open mic event can remain a staple of Madison nightlife on Thursdays.

Poor Herbie's: A Fixture in Downtown Madison

Poor Herbie’s was recently sold to a group of four buyers, including Peter Flemming, who currently sits on Madison’s Planning Board and is a member of the borough’s Patriotic Celebrations Committee.

“There were several groups that came together and wanted to be part of the transition,” Judy said. “I’m comfortable that we’ve picked the very best possible team, and that they have among them enough of the ingredients for a new operation without throwing the baby out with the bath water.

“25 years is a long time. There were changes that needed to be made to allow the restaurant to stay vibrant and active.” 

Owning Poor Herbie’s has “been a terrific thing for both Judy and I and the kids and the town of Madison,” Dennis said. “It’s just been wonderful, and that is now going to continue with other residents of Madison.” 

Reflecting on her many years at the helm of Madison’s staple Irish pub, Judy said she was happy to have been part of the restaurant community for more than two decades.

“Poor Herbie’s was a landmark decision for us because my husband loved the restaurant,” Judy said. “Both of us had other careers and had decided that we wanted to sort of pick up our feet and land someplace else. The restaurant, which was for sale at the time because the owners were retiring, looked like something that we could both do and would do together.” 

For many Madison residents and Poor Herbie’s staff, the pub crowd was like a big family. 

“We’ve seen Madison families grow up here,” said Maureen Holly, who has worked at the restaurant for more than 30 years. “I met a lot of people I will cherish for the rest of my life.” 

Holly said she is “sad” to see the restaurant close but is also “excited for change” under the new owners. 

“I feel that Judy and Dennis had a great run for a restaurant,” she said. “25 years is phenomenal. The new owners are looking to come and be part of the community as well so it’s really a win-win for everybody.” 

The couple recently moved to Arbor Terrace, an assisted living home in Morris Plains. Judy said the facility is beautiful—and the amenities aren’t bad either. 

“It’s nice to have three meals a day served restaurant style,” she said. “I can deal with that.” 

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