On Friday at 4 pm, the eagerly-awaited Zeppelin Hall, located in Jersey City’s Liberty Harbor development, opened to the public. After a few hours, commuters began to fill the interior pub area and the outdoor beer garden. Despite the typical opening day problems like occasional long lines for food and beer, the opening was well-received.
A healthy mix of professionals, retirees, tattooed hipsters and families filled the hall on Friday; I spoke with several people, and most seemed to be locals. While sipping a mixed drink (yes, a mixed drink at a beer garden!), Linda Visser said she was waiting for friends to arrive from work. She moved from Manhattan to Liberty Harbor six months ago, and had been eagerly awaiting the opening.
Another resident of Liberty Harbor said he was thrilled to have Zeppelin Hall close by, but added that he might feel differently if he lived directly above it. (Though we’re pretty sure the residencies in this building have pretty well soundproofed windows, as the light rail passes right outside as well.) David McGrath, a Jersey City resident who originally hails from the UK, was delighted to find one of his favorite brews, Tennent's Scottish Ale, on tap. He mentioned he’d only previously found it in a few choice locations in New York City.
Peter Mocco, the developer of Liberty Harbor and one of the principals of Zeppelin Hall, introduced his partner John Argento (the owner of NYC’s legendary 80s new wave club Danceteria) as not just the manager, but as the “impresario.” Mocco and Argento have worked on projects together for a dozen years.
“John conceived it and brought it to the metropolitan area,” Mocco says of Zeppelin Hall. The project took 12 months to complete, and Mocco thanked city officials for helping to move the project along smoothly. He emphasized that the hall is the kind of social environment where people are invited to relax and enjoy themselves without being rushed to pay the bill. He added that Argento paid special attention to details like the positioning of the long outdoor tables.
“They are connected so people can interact, [and can] come as strangers and leave as friends, so they don’t feel anonymous in an isolated city,” he said. Zeppelin Hall is also family friendly — at least until 9 pm when it shifts to a 21+ policy. Beer is served here in pints, liters and pitchers.
Friday’s opening was not advertised, but it tore up the Jersey City Twittersphere and was a hot topic on local message boards. “The key to a successful operation is publicity by word of mouth,” Mocco said, and it appears Zeppelin Hall mastered that aspect. Mocco added that the idea is to test the operations at less than full capacity to work the kinks out, and to have a formal opening in several weeks. No date has yet been set for opening festivities.
Zeppelin Hall’s menu features beer hall standards like various sausages and other Bavarian specialties, but also has burgers, a kid’s menu and salads. For now the food is cooked in the grill kitchen that primarily services the beer garden area. The main kitchen, which is about four times the size as the grill area, is located on the lower level and will be in operation later this year. Food and beverage service is currently self serve.
Mocco said he believes Zeppelin Hall will attract people from from Jersey City, of course, but also from Hoboken and beyond. The hall is easily accessible by public transportation — via light rail (Jersey Avenue stop) and PATH (Grove Street), and is the first of its kind on our side of the Hudson. The patrons I spoke with this weekend were emphatic that Zeppelin Hall is a welcome addition to the city and will instantly become a new destination.