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Gcity Liquor Licenses Okayed; Remember Open Sunday Bars Campaign & Gcity Pub Crawl


William E. Cleary Sr. | CNBNews Editor


GLOUCESTER CITY, NJ (July 17, 2023)(CNBNews)--At a recent meeting, the Mayor and Council of Gloucester City, approved the annual renewal of liquor licenses for ten taverns, five package goods stores, four club licenses, and one inactive license. The licenses expire each year on June 30. It cost $1,650 to renew a plenary retail consumption license; $1,150 for a plenary retail distribution license, and, $188 for every club license (see here). Below is a list of the names of those approved licenses.


In the past, Gloucester City had over 50 taverns and bars, and the locals have stories of how the bus driver would announce the bar name instead of the street for their passengers. Some even claim that Gloucester City held a record in the Guinness Book of World Records for having the most bars in a 2.5 square mile radius. 


George F. Cleary Sr., who was the former owner and Editor of the Gloucester City News and also the father of this reporter, mentioned that in the 1940s and 1950s, Gloucester City had a wild and crazy reputation. Cleary, who passed away in 1993, explained that this reputation was fueled by the thousands of sailors on ships being repaired in nearby Philadelphia, just across the Delaware River, a few miles away from Gloucester. The sailors would leave Philadelphia for Gloucester on Friday and not return to their ships until late Sunday evening. This was during the end of World War II and just before the start of the Korean War.


According to Cleary, it was a common sight to see intoxicated sailors stumbling down Broadway or sleeping on the street in front of bars on weekend mornings, eagerly waiting for their favorite drinking spots to open. Gloucester City earned the nickname "Holy City" due to the numerous churches of different denominations scattered throughout the area. However, Cleary noted that the congregation members of these churches did not appreciate seeing inebriated individuals lying on the sidewalks as they made their way to their places of worship. Thus, a movement to close bars on Sundays was initiated and supported by weekly editorials in the Gloucester City News. Cleary and other advocates of this cause were even threatened by those who opposed it. Despite the tavern owners withdrawing their advertisements due to the editorials, Cleary remained steadfast in his efforts.

George said, a knife fight between a sailor and a resident ended in the tragic death of the resident. Cleary said that incident was enough to push the Close Taverns on Sundays referendum to victory.

In the late 60s and early 70s, the number of bars, liquor stores, and club licenses had dwindled to about 35. Another effort by the Tavern owners to open on Sunday was tried but failed. Not to be deterred a few years later, the question of Open Sundays appeared again on the ballot, and this time it was approved.

Growing up in the 50s and 60s in this City, the memories of seeing a bar on almost every corner of Burlington Street are vivid. A popular ritual at that time was a practice called The Pub Crawl.  For those who have no clue what that was, we included a link to an article written by Boomer Bennett some years ago.

The 2023-24 liquor license renewals are listed below

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Memories of Gloucester City: Topic The Pub Crawl

By Jack "Bomber" Bennett


Note: The author is a former Gloucester City resident and a Gloucester Catholic High School graduate. Today, Jack resides in Florida


By Jack "Bomber" Bennett

072707_0153_comingfrida1_3PUB CRAWL – the act of one or more people drinking in a number of pubs in a single night, normally walking between them.  Wikipedia

As a kid growing up in Gloucester City in the 50's and 60's, it was always there beckoning to you. You never quite understood what it was, but you could feel it every time you walked down most any street in town. There was always this vibe in the air—a tingling sensation. You couldn't quite put you finger on it, but you knew it was there.

Then, one day it suddenly hit you like a bottle of stale beer and you saw it—Gloucester had a tavern on nearly every corner. Some street corners had more than one. Of course, you said to yourself, why hadn't I seen it before. It was so obvious. And with that epiphany came the realization that some day you were going to visit each and every one of them. It was your calling--your duty. It was in your DNA, like a salmon going upstream or a Sherpa climbing Mt. Everest. There was no running from your destiny. But, you wondered, how could you visit all of them?  Then somebody said these words to you, "PUB CRAWL."

There aren't many rites of passage that have stood the test of time quite like surviving your first pub crawl. And admit it, as a Gloucesterite you've either done one yourself or you probably know someone who has. But, in this age of Political Correctness one shouldn't be talking about consuming mass quantities of alcohol, but the heck with that. It was a genuine rite of passage in this town-- a lot like killing your first bear out in the frontier. The only caveats were no cars or bikes and you "had to be of age or be able to prove it." It had to be attempted on foot and then perhaps ending on ones knees. This is where the crawl part came in.

My crawls started in the late 60's as part of our bachelor party nights. What better way to send off an old buddy to the land of nuptial bliss than by visiting as many beer halls as possible. Many a Gloucester groom has gone to the altar following such a night on the town. Many grooms probably were a tad late and a bit woozy when they finally took their vows because of a good crawl.

So what exactly was the best way to do a Gloucester pub crawl? There are several theories concerning how to do a really good one. Some would opt for an Irish theme and let's face it, finding an Irish bar in town was like finding sand on the beach. Many places had names that began with an "O" or "Mc" or at least had a shamrock on the sign.

Sometimes you would only go to places that served a certain beer on tap. It could be a Schmidts night one time, then an Ortliebs or Pabst another night. But, whatever you decided on, it didn't matter. There were plenty of choices regardless of the theme for the evening.

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