Emmett’s Inn owner gave people nights to remember forever

It was early April 1978. The legal drinking age in New Jersey was 18 and I had turned 18 on March 27.

For months, a co-worker at my after-school job had been telling me about a fantastic bar with live music called Emmett’s Inn in Jamesburg (it was actually in Monroe Township).

And so on a night in early April, two friends who had also just turned 18 and I set out to find Emmett’s Inn. We followed Water Street out of Englishtown on what seemed like an endless ride to Jamesburg.

We had been instructed, upon reaching Jamesburg, to turn right on Pergola Avenue. We saw Pergola Avenue and made the turn. We had been told to follow Pergola Avenue until we came to a fork in the road and to go right.

We came to a fork in the road and went right. Years later I learned the name of that street going right was Lower Matchaponix Avenue.

Following the directions we had been given by my older co-worker (he was 19), we followed Lower Matchaponix and after a minute or two we saw a sign that said Emmett’s Inn. The club was in the middle of nowhere.

I didn’t know my life was about to change, but it did, because on that night my love of live music in New Jersey bars was born.

It continued at places like Zaffy’s in Piscataway, Close Encounters in Sayreville, the Colonel’s Garter in South Amboy, Sgt. Pepper’s in Hazlet, and Dolly Dimples in Howell.

My love of live music played by real people, in a small venue, who want to make other people happy, continues to this day.

We parked the car, went inside and paid a $2 or $3 cover charge. One minute later our minds were blown when we saw a band onstage with five guys in makeup, playing a David Bowie song, with an eye-catching banner hung behind them that said “Twisted Sister.” That night we became fans of Twisted Sister and of Emmett’s Inn.

Robert E. Garvey Jr., 79, of Monroe Township, the owner of Emmett’s Inn, which eventually became the more sedate Garvey’s Family Restaurant, died on Sept. 13 at Penn Medicine Princeton Medical Center in Plainsboro.

Although I never spoke with Mr. Garvey on the many nights I visited Emmett’s Inn, I later learned he was the owner and our host.

Years later when I visited Garvey’s restaurant – I knew it had been Emmett’s Inn and I wanted my son to see a place that meant to much to me – I got to meet Mr. Garvey and to thank him for his hospitality all those years earlier. He could not have been nicer to us.

Emmett’s Inn – the home of three stages and three bands on the weekend; of ice cold Molson Golden Ale; and of a large screen projection TV on which I watched Lanny McDonald of the Toronto Maple Leafs beat the New York Islanders with a playoff series winning overtime goal on April 29, 1978.

After Emmett’s Inn had given way to Garvey’s restaurant, the place was hosting a band on Friday nights, albeit on a much smaller scale than in the “old days.”

I went one Friday and saw a very good band, Amber Moon. They were playing songs from the 1970s and 1980s and when I closed my eyes I could picture guys in flannel shirts and girls in halter tops having the time of their life.

Unfortunately, I could also still picture Lanny McDonald scoring that goal against the Islanders. Nevertheless, for a short time it was April 1978 once again and it was great.

These days there is an Emmett’s Inn page on Facebook. Many people – those who performed there, those who worked there and those who loved and remember the nights they spent there – post pictures and memories.

Garvey’s passing prompted many comments on the page. Here is some of what people had to say:

• “RIP, Bob. You certainly had an impact on all lives you have crossed paths with and the lives who have crossed paths because of you. Your influence on the rock and roll scene will never be forgotten.”

• “Thank you for giving so many of us fond memories of your establishment over the years.”

• “Rock and Roll has lost one of the original Greatest Club Owners in NJ (sic).”

• “Bob was an absolute legend. His contributions to all our lives can never be fully expressed. We are all better off for having Bob Garvey.”

• “RIP Bob, had brought many people together for a lot of fun. Was always a great guy.”

• “My heart hurts … this really is the end of an era. So many memories of Emmett’s Inn.”

• “RIP Mr. Garvey … a great establishment … I met my husband there … thanks for all the wonderful memories.”

• “Blessed to have known him and raised a Chivas Regal with him on a few occasions. Emmett’s Inn was the place to be and Bob was the man. Glad to have played there back in the day. RIP Bob one of a kind!”

Garvey was a longtime resident of Monroe Township, a local real estate developer, a parishioner of St. James the Less RC Church and a member of Knights of Columbus Council No. 6336, Jamesburg.

He was pre-deceased by two sons, Robert E. Garvey III in 2015, and Michael E. Garvey in 2019, and his brother, Kenneth Garvey. He is survived by his wife of 60 years, Kathleen; two sons; three siblings; and seven grandchildren, according to an obituary posted online by the M. David DeMarco Funeral Home, Monroe Township.

Memorial contributions may be made to the Alzheimer’s Association.

Mark Rosman is a managing editor with Newspaper Media Group. He may be reached at news@thenewstranscript.com