With its warm, inviting ambiance, wooden bar, tchotchke-lined walls, pool table + shuffleboard, patron-run jukebox, and delicious eats – there’s no wonder so many locals love Obal’s Inn in Bloomfield. This beloved neighborhood staple has come close to closing as it battled business-threatening obstacles in the past, but it has overcome every one due to the persistence of its community support. We caught up with owner Kenny Janes to learn more about Obal’s Inn’s special connection to its community. Read on to learn more about Obal’s Inn, located at 439 Broad Street in Bloomfield.
History + Surviving Catastrophe
Kenny Janes and his family have owned Obal’s Inn for 40 years.
“My parents bought Obal’s back in 1982. They bought the bar from Stanley Obal,” Kenny Janes told The Montclair Girl. “Stanley Obal had the bar for [roughly] 30, 40 years, and my parents kept the name.”
Stanley Stash Obal and his wife, Madelyn Obal, opened the business in 1952 and together, they owned and operated Obal’s Inn for 32 years.
Obal’s Inn features a close-knit community of people who have been dedicated to seeing this bar survive a number of threatening closures throughout the past two years.
The COVID-19 pandemic deeply hurt many local businesses. After several business plan changes, opening once a week, and pushing take-out orders, Obal’s Inn was ‘closing for good’ on February 6th, 2021. This ignited an uproar throughout the community on social media with many sharing their love and ties to Obal’s Inn.
“Oh this is heartbreaking!!! Such a tremendous loss for the township. Obal’s has been in business for years. I’m so sad!! Thank you for all the great memories,” a commenter shared on Facebook.
“Things just got really bad and we decided to shut down. As soon as we shut down, that night and into the next morning, social media just exploded,” Kenny Janes told us. “It put the wind back in us and gave us something to keep fighting for. That’s why we decided to stay open and to get through this COVID thing. It was the support and the outpouring from all of our customers and friends. That’s what kept us going.”
On February 24th — just two weeks later — Obal’s Inn reopened. “Because of all the love and kind words from our loyal customers, we have decided to give this another go,” Obal’s announced on its Instagram.
But it didn’t stop there — in September of 2021, Obal’s Inn suffered catastrophic damage from Hurricane Ida which forced them to close until further notice. A close friend of the Janes’ and Obal’s Inn lover, Rachel Harrington, took to GoFundMe to help support the businesses’ damage costs. The fundraiser raised over 10,000 dollars.
“We would like to thank everyone for all of your generosity and prayers. To say thank you doesn’t even begin to put into words how much all your help really means to us,” said Kenny Janes in response to the fundraiser.
Why Locals Love It
Obal’s Inn hosts a variety of events and specialty eats to take advantage of.
One of the most notable days to visit is on Thursdays. Every Thursday, Obal’s Inn serves its renowned ribs — which were recently described as NJ’s best ribs by NJ.com. We recommend arriving here early if you want a taste – ribs are served on a first-come, first-served basis. Thursday night is also #TriviaThursday hosted by Joe Trivia. Trivia is free to play, and prizes in the past have included Yankees tickets.
Wednesdays at Obal’s Inn include live music from Jenny Marie Hoatson, Michael Stanton Murphy, and more. Also on Wednesdays, Obal’s Inn is kicking off its BBQ nights with its new smoker. “We’re smoking a bunch of meats. We got some coleslaw, mac and cheese, and baked beans going – it’s a great time,” Kenny shared with us.
Don’t miss out on Sundays, either — Obal’s Inn serves brunch every Sunday from 11AM to 3PM with specials changing weekly. Be sure to check its Instagram for updates.
“It’s the real life equivalent of going to the bar from Cheers. It’s the place where, as a regular, everybody knows your name,” Christopher Clesca, Bloomfield resident and Obal’s patron, told The Montclair Girl. “Not to mention, it’s constantly a diverse crowd with multiple different populations represented. It has the effect of feeling like home. And all that occurs alongside some great drink prices and amazing food.”
“We’re not actually blood-related, but I consider everyone like family,” Kenny Janes told The Montclair Girl. “There are so many amazing people who have come through that door. My parents bought this place when I was 5 years old, and there are still people from then who come in to this day. It’s really a special place.”
Kenny Janes can not emphasize enough how grateful he is for his support team. “I have an amazing staff, friends, and customers – they’re awesome. Everyone. They really are.”
The Janes’ family will be celebrating their 40-year anniversary this August. Stay tuned to see what they have planned. In the meantime, be sure to check out its Instagram for updates on everything happening at Obal’s Inn.