Home Food + Drink Hoboken {TBT}: Maxwell’s Tavern, Formerly Known as Maxwell’s

Hoboken {TBT}: Maxwell’s Tavern, Formerly Known as Maxwell’s

by Aida
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Buckle up because it’s time to hop on the time machine for a Hoboken Girl #TBT. This week’s flashback is dedicated to Maxwell’s Tavern, located on the corner of 11th and Washington. This spot has made worldwide news due to its historic musical guests and tiny venue, so we thought it only appropriate that we delve a little further into the history that makes this landmark what it is today. 


Similar to CBGBs in NYC, Maxwell’s was a house of rock that brought music lovers from near and far together. But before that, there is much history to be had.Rewind to the 1940s: before Maxwell’s became a spot for brunch, drinks, and open mics {and was historically known as *the* music spot in New Jersey}, Maxwell’s was a restaurant and hangout that served Hoboken locals in the 1940s through the 1970s. Basically, Maxwell’s was THE spot for those who worked at the “Maxwell House Coffee Plant,” which you may remember from one of our first ever #TBT posts. The tavern was open for all three shifts — meaning that employees at any time, night or day, could enjoy some booze and eats after work.

Once the year 1978 hit, Maxwell’s was sold to a man by the name of Steven Fallon. The backstory on this is kind of entertaining, if we do say so ourselves. According to Vulture, Fallon paraded the mile square for a good three weeks and noticed Maxwell’s was always closed. He finally found the owner and asked him “When the f**k are you open?!”{side note — so Jersey, ha ha}— of course, the owner explained to him that he only opened the venue during the three shifts in which Maxwell House Coffee Plant workers would come in. Instead of being satisfied with that answer, the Fallons bought out the owner with $67,000 — and rented the apartments in the upper level for 55 bucks a month {it makes us cry real tears just thinking how cheap that is}.


Photo of Kurt Cobain: Ian Tilton/Camera Press/Redux

Once the Fallons had the Maxwell Tavern locked in, a band in Hoboken known as Band “a,” later known as The Bongos, asked Fallon if they could practice in the empty room in the back of the venue — and then went a step further and started playing a few tunes for patrons. After some positive remarks from customers, Fallon began to book bands routinely in the empty room in the back. Maxwell’s was on its way to be the iconic spot for a lot of bands on tour that it is known as today.


Maxwell’s was such a big hit that many musical celebrities started to make appearances there.

A rundown of the fun facts you need to know: 

  • Parts of “Glory Days” by Bruce Springsteen were filmed inside of Maxwell’s {BRUUUUUCE!!!} in May 28, 1985 — a video that was directed by John Sayles, a Hoboken resident at the time.


The Bongos + The Band ‘A’ | Photo by Phil Marino

  • Nirvana was another band that made an appearance and performance to remember — July 13, 1989 — 90s punk rockers to the max. The band’s appearance at Maxwell’s was made during their tour for their album Bleach. Other noteworthy bands who rolled through included REM and Oasis.

In the words of Steven Fallon, “the legend is bigger than the room.” Maxwell’s was just that — a tiny venue with a huge guest list and performance repertoire.

Sadly in 2013, after several decades of musical history in the making, it was said that Maxwell’s was going to shut down. According to an article on NPR, the price of rent in Hoboken drove a lot of Maxwell fans out of the mile square — along with parking becoming more difficult than ever. Before they said their last goodbyes, a block party was thrown in July 2013 on 11th between Washington and Hudson Place. The band “a” {the first band ever to play at Maxwell’s} also played there on July 31st for the last show. 

But the story doesn’t end there. After all had finished shedding their tears about the musical mecca, a celeb that we all know {and most likely lust after} came to the venue — Justin Timberlake! JT chose Maxwell’s in August of 2013 as the setting for filming a commercial for Target, which once again boosted the venue to the forefront of the music scene for a hot minute. For those of you that were there at the time [it was AMAZING], let’s take a moment to remember the long lines of fans trying to get into Maxwell’s just to see him {only a few lucky ones persevered, le sigh}. Throughout this time, however, Maxwell’s was still closed to the public.


Shortly after, the tavern was sold to Evan Dean and Pete Carr, who converted the concert area into a dining room, and the idea of “open” live music continued, with the back concert area sometimes converting for shows. Nowadays, Maxwell’s does show its respects for the music scene Hoboken once had — with open mics and live bands pretty routinely {including some country music mixed in!}. They also host trivia nights and have a pretty delectable brunch menu.

So, next time you pass by or pop into Maxwell’s, take a good look around at the history that lives in the walls — and pour one out for the rock ‘n’ roll history that has taken place in our little city of Hoboken. Glory days, that’s for sure. 



A photo posted by Maxwell’s Tavern (@maxwellsnj) on




Have a fun vintage photo or Hoboken story you’d like to submit for consideration in our #HobokenTBT? Email it to: hello@hobokengirl.com!

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