NEW BRUNSWICK, NJ - The Old Bay, a household name across the Hub City, will go out with a bang before shutting its doors for good at the end of the month.
On Saturday, December 9, The Do Rights will have their last concert there. The next weekend, on Saturday, December 16, P-Funk North will perform for the final Old Bay concert. Then on December 23, the restaurant will host its final farewell to all its patrons.
The Old Bay has become known far and wide for its festive, Mardi Gras style of dining. The music is right there with you; not up on a stage.
For The Do Right’s members, the Old Bay has offered something unique for its patrons, and on top of that, a chance for the band to really build a name for itself.
“When I think of Mardi Gras, it’s this big party experience, sort of free and loose,” said Rolonda Franklin, the band’s vocalist, “I think that’s really what we’ve all felt, playing at the Old Bay, a sense of freedom, and festive party.”
Apples to oranges though; you’re bound to get a different experience at the Hub City Brewhouse, Court Tavern, Scarlet Pub or George Street Co-Op.
Still, the loss of another music venue has struck somewhat of a somber tone.
“It’s been a little sad to see these monuments of the city go out of business,” Franklin said. “I really hope that whatever ends up taking their place will be as accommodating of live music.”
For many musicians, the Old Bay has been a stepping stone for them, whether in their musical career, or at the very least, a confidence boost for any fledgling band or musician.
“A lot of places, you really need a lot of credentials to get through the door, but the Old Bay, they always had their finger on what was going on in the pulse musically, a lot of people came in and said ‘listen, just give us a shot’,” said Owen Wetzel, a founding member of The Do Rights.
“The Old Bay was a place that really harvested local music,” Wetzel said.
You’d be right if you thought “the Old Bay” and “The Do Rights,” have appeared in the same sentence time and time again.
The band has performed nearly half their shows there, at least once a month, according to Franklin.
“They were one of the venues around New Brunswick that just always had their doors open to us,” Franklin said. “The management and staff have just been really welcoming, and any time we just wanted to play out, they were very accommodating.”
Franklin credits the Old Bay with helping the band find a niche, and a platform to become successful.
The Old Bay’s contributions to the music scene hasn’t been without its complications, Wetzel said. Because the restaurant serves alcohol, music lovers under 21 couldn't get in.
“Even if they do an all ages with wrist-bands, people keep finding a way to drink and they can get in trouble,” Wetzel said, adding that many times, this has posed a problem for venues like the Court Tavern, any restaurant on George Street or any bar on Easton Avenue.
And so, that gives the underground music scene a competitive edge; it caters to all ages, and you wouldn’t have to worry about being 21 to enjoy the show.
The Old Bay, and other restaurants in the area, have catered more to an older and more mature crowd as a result, Franklin said, well above the legal drinking age.
What the future holds for bands like The Do Rights is up in the air, once the Old Bay becomes the Blackthorn Irish Pub & Restaurant.
“The venue is trying to shift gears into becoming more of a pub experience,” Franklin said. “I’m interested to see what it’s going to look like.”
“It’s probably a lot easier for a restaurant to say ‘we don’t need live music, let’s just put on the house music really loud’,” Wetzel said. “Which a lot of people do when the turn restaurants to bars.”
“We’ll see, hopefully. I’m sure that the new place is going to be great.”
The Do Rights go on stage on December 9 at 9:30 p.m. The Old Bay’s last concert is Saturday, December 16 at 10 p.m., with a performance by P-Funk. The restaurant’s final day of festivities is on Saturday, December 23 at 10 p.m.