This is a personal story and what I’m calling a web gift from the WHS class of 1980 to all those who loved the Jolly Trolley. I hope you continue to send in your stories and photos. As with all Mr. Local History retrospectives, we often update the post when we learn more and are sent photos from our community. We will continue to grow this piece as information becomes available. If you have a comment or photo, feel free to post at the bottom of this page or drop us a note.
I’m still looking to add to this piece, so if you have any, please contact me:Brooks Betz, The Mr. Local History Project [email protected]
– The perfect shot of those green and white awnings of the Jolly Trolley
– A Jolly Trolley Menu
– Jolly Trolley Nametag
– Jolly Trolley softball or bowling team jersey
– Any Jolly Trolley merch (including matchbooks)
– Any old Jolly Trolley photos of the property
The Jolly Trolley was built in 1966 and was the flagship location of CB Holding Corp., the parent company of Charlie Brown’s Steakhouse, Bugaboo Creek Steak House, and The Office Beer Bar & Grill. This historic business was more than just a business in Westfield, it was an institution. So lets dig into this great Westfield story as we talk to residents, WHS alumni and former residents about what it was like at the bar and restaurant everyone will always remember as “The Trolley.”
Jolley Tolley Beginnings – 1966
The story of the Jolly Trolley goes back to the spring of 1966, when WHS graduates Dave Monier (’56) and Chuck (Charles) Barondess (’57), along with Peter deLamos, opened their new restaurant business on April 7 in the former location of the Plaza Bar. It was later determined deLamos and two partners were convicted in 1981 of operating the Jolly Trolley Casino in Las Vegas as a front for the mob.
Peter deLamos established himself at the Shore with at a string of restaurants in the 1960s and 1970s, including the Charlie Brown’s chain, What’s Your Beef and Barnacle Bill’s in Rumson, and Lock Stock and Barrel in Fair Haven. The legendary restauranteur who partnered with the Westfield duo, was a Rumson resident whose career was derailed as deLamos and two other partners were convicted of running the Jolly Trolley Casino on the Las Vegas Strip as a front for the New Jersey Mob. He was sentenced to three years in prison and slapped with a $60,000 fine. The conviction and negative press surrounding his organized crime affiliation damaged deLamos’ reputation and business dealings. He was forced to sell restaurants What’s Your Beef and Barnacle Bill’s in the early 1980s. Sure there was some name connection between Westfield’s Trolley and the Vegas Casino. Just sayin!
“We named it after a bar that was on the New Jersey side of the Holland Tunnel called the Trolley (Room) Bar,” said Monier, a former fullback and first baseman at WHS. ” Why did we call it the Jolly Trolley? God only knows. We did some strange things back in those days.”
We can’t start the story without first knowing about the actual railed trolley that ran in Westfield. What many don’t know is that the first trolley ran thru Westfield back in 1898 along what is today’s NJ Transit #49 bus. The trolley system ended in 1935.
At one time, trolley tracks used to run down from Elizabeth down Grove Street to Summit Avenue and into
Westfield on the way to Plainfield and points west. So, by coincidence or not, the name made sense.
Before the Trolley
1910- Mooney’s Hotel
Our earliest image of 411 North Avenue takes us back to 1910, where we found this photo of Mooney’s Hotel, adjacent to the Westfield Fire Department. The fire department was incorporated back in 1883 but this building was said to be dated back to 1880. so we think there were still earlier businesses on our way to the Jolly Trolley legacy.
The property, alongside the railroad tracks and tied to the Westfield Fire Department quickly became a commuter bar stop off for those returning from Newark and NYC on the Raritan Valley Line.
But then we found this photo in the 1950s where Mooney’s Hotel had been sold to George Chrone, a hotelier and barkeep in Westfield that called the business the Plaza Bar and Hotel. The Chrones family was heavily engaged in local pubs.
The Jolly Trolley was actually The Plaza Hotel and Bar before it was the Jolly Trolley. The Plaza was owned by the Chrones family whose lives were dedicated to the restaurant business. George Chrone of Westfield owned the Plaza until his death in 1969 then passed on to his son Albie (Albert) Chrone.
Al Chrone was an avid fisherman and well connected at the local YMCA until he passed in Florida in 2012. Allan Chrone owned the nearby Townhouse Restaurant and buildings on Quimby St. Maurice, also known as Sonny owned Chrones in Mountainside according to Cheryle Koza Parks, who’s family was also in the restaurant business. “This was my Uncle’s establishment for many years,” said Bert Smith. “I suspect most people here were not even born yet when the Plaza was in operation.”
“At 16, I was in the first crew hired when they opened,” said Bruce Tapley, a retired firefighter. “First day I straightened out the back storage room. Second day, I washed dishes. Within a week, I was making sandwiches and giving them free to cops and mobsters out the back door and watching them eat lunch together in the back of the parking lot. And learned to bartend there after hours. Worked in every capacity with the company for 7 years. Stories? Hah!”
- Oct. 10, 2016 – (Columbus Day) – Trolley building demolished.
- Nov. 2018 – Liquor License sold for $750,000.
Jolly Trolley Prime Years:
Peanuts, Prime Rib, Cheddar Burgers, and THAT Salad!
No when you went to the Trolley to eat, you knew you were gonna get some quality food. Menu favorites ranged from the onion soup, to the full salad bar, prime rib, and cheddar burgers. No matter whether you were at the bar or in the back room, the salad was always a best bet. But what was it going to be? The house salad or the salad bar. We’ll answer that in a minute.
Many a patron remember a few iconic memories. Who couldn’t forget the peanuts, shells everywhere on the bar area floor providing a slick shell base to crunch when heading to the bar.
That Chilled Salad with Baby Shrimp
Then there’s the Jolly Trolley house salad and the salad bar. Joan Lawrence asked; “Does anyone happen to have the recipe that the original Jolly Trolley used on their salad? The salad was made with baby shrimp, chopped hardboiled egg, and had a dressing that was similar to cocktail sauce. This was probably served in the 1960’s and 70’s. Maybe someone from the Barondess family?”
James Pfeiffer wrote in, “I was a salad boy there in 1970 and made the dressing in a 50 gallon tub but if I told u the recipe I’d have to kill as it was that good.” So if you want the secret recipe, track down James.
Unofficial WHS Reunion:
Thanksgiving Eve @thetrolley
If you lived in town and you went off to your freshman year to college, nothing circled the calendar more than the night before Thanksgiving at the Trolley. Many wrote in reminding me about the reunion like atmosphere every Turkey Day eve. The place was packed! If you could imagine the Cheers sitcom, Cheers had nothing on the Jolly Trolley because “Everybody knew your name.” It was a town ritual right up to the end.
I remember the Trolley actually being called the “Jolly Trolley Saloon” back in 1979. How many of you remember having a few drinks or a meal in the side dining room only to look up to the bookshelf and pull out a book or two? “Bet you didn’t know the library dining area first had real books”; said Elizabeth Gilmore-Duddy. “In later years they cut the books in half so they’d fit in shallow shelves. Very disappointing.”
I worked at The Trolley as a waitress back around 97/98. I’ll never forget the endless peanut shells and regulars! I definitely got a lot of comments on my name tag “ Jolly Trolley Holly”Holly Ambrose – WHS class of ?
I always found that quite amusing.
Iconic Porcelain Bathroom Memory
Steve Archambault reminded us of another stoic fixture at the Trolley, A single 10 foot long urinal wall to wall filled with ice. “That urinal should be in the Smithsonian by now. How much ice could you melt?” One of my class of 1980 buddies Mike Perry then reminded me: ” I personally loaded those huge ornate marble urinals with bus boxes full of fresh ice scooped ice(in a sanitary fashion) from the ice machine in the kitchen after cleaning & mopping both bathrooms prior to my double each Sunday. Wouldn’t trade the experience for anything.”
“It all started to go downhill around 1991, when they replaced the shower size urinals,” said FR Pete Harley (’76).
“It was the Jolly Trolley where my son, P.J., became a ‘big boy,’ peeing for the first time into those classics.”
SNL Underage Drinking at “the Trolley”
The Man Responsible for Changing the Name
In January 2005 it was announced that Charlie Brown’s has new owners Trimaran Capital Partners has entered into a definitive agreement to purchase Charlie Brown’s, owner and operator of 54 full-service casual dining restaurants located in New Jersey, New York and Pennsylvania, from Castle Harlan. Members of Charlie Brown’s senior management team, headed by Russell D’Anton, continued in their current positions and will be investors in the transaction. The transaction, valued at $ 1 40 million, closed during the first quarter of 2005.
On August 30, 2009 the name officially changed to the Office Bar & Grill. If you called (908) 232-1207, the answerer said, “The Office Bar and Grill.” Word is that the name change was a “corporate” decision.
In 2009, the most notable change was the discontinuation of the Trolley’s salad bar and prime rib offerings. New beer selections are also being served, which may mean the loss of some of The Trolley’s rotating draughts microbrews. A few décor renovations are also being engineered over the next few months, including fresh coats of paint, new booths and plans to open up the bar area. While there have been no staff changes initiated, former Trolley employees have been outfitted with a brand-new uniform: jeans and black shirts, which is a little more relaxed than the Trolley wardrobe.
May 8, 2016 – “Last Call”
Fast forward a half a century as a staple in Downtown Westfield, on Sunday, May 8, 2016, The Office Beer Bar & Grill on 411 North Avenue closed it doors forever. Residents dropped in that final day to enjoy a few cold ones that weekend and reminisced about the good old days at what was had become the town’s oldest bar.
“I remember the peanuts on the floor. I remember that many a divorce and perhaps a romance started there, and I can tell you every building and every use has its life, but this building should be torn down. I will cry when it happens, but I will agree it’s something that will improve downtown Westfield.”John M. Boyle, a former Superior Court judge who lives in Westfield.
Finally, on Monday, October 9, 2016 the former Trolley met the end of an era. The building was demolished that Columbus Day to make way for a new three-story mixed-use complex. (See video below)
Lastly, in November 2018, the liquor license that had belonged to the Jolly Trolley was sold for $750,000 to a new company expecting to open a restaurant on Central Avenue. Bareburger is planning to open on Central Avenue in the vacant building left open by clothing store Coldwater Creek.
So What’s Next
The new building, now referred to as 411 North will consist of 1,200 square feet dedicated to retail and personal services on the first floor, while a total of 20 luxury one- and two-bedroom apartments would occupy the second and third floors. Thirty-three ground-level parking spaces under the structure are also included in the plans. Work has begun at 411 North Ave. W. to construct a new mixed-use residential and retail building.
Previously home to The Office Beer Bar & Grill and before that the popular Jolly Trolley for more than 40 years, the new building is next to the Westfield Fire Department and the North Avenue train station. It will have 25,810 total square feet, consisting of 1,200 square feet dedicated to retail and personal services on the first floor, and 20 luxury one- and two-bedroom apartments occupying the second and third floors. Thirty-three ground-level parking spaces under the structure will be included.
This story is getting pasted on a few Facebook pages so we’ve gathered of few of the fun comments.
If you have a comment, please share in the Comments section below or if you have FB post there .
I worked in the kitchen at the Trolley in ’72ish. Started as a dishwasher, moved up to making the salads with the the tiny shrimp and eventually cut the prime rib. My dad, John Pinto aka “John Ootz”, high school buddy (I forget his name) was the manager and got me the job. It’s all a bit fuzzy now but I think it was a nice stepping stone in my upbringing.Peter Pinto, WHS Class of 1976
There was an old golf bag hanging in front corner of the bar that we used to write and stuff all kinds of notes in…they could tell a story for sure.Nancy Sexton Greco, WHS 81 and resident
The giant urinals are memorable. We played touch football every Saturday after Thanksgiving until we were well into our 50’s , and went to the Trolley to toss down a few and reminisce. A great tradition I really miss. Sadly about 3 of “us” passed away, but the memories…priceless.Tom MacDowell WHS Class of 1970
Proud to have been named number 1 busboy according to Chen (number 1 dishwasher) back in ’79/’80. Great times with good people…Mike Perry, WHS 1980
Nick Critelli asked if want to come back tomorrow and wash dishes. I jumped at the chance. And from that day on for 7 years or so, worked every job they had. From busboy, to cook, to salad maker, baking 12 cheesecakes at a time, to opening all the new restaurants that came up, and driving into NYC to pick up from the meat markets, and fish markets and distributing to all the restaurants.Paul Tapley – One of the first workers at the Trolley in 1966.
Literally the best, memories of inter generational Westfield relationships built inside of those walls! Never forgotten!Megan Sheehy-Liriano – WHS Class of 1997
We used to leave WHS and go to the Jolly Trolley for lunch, also the Oakland House in Garwood. We would buy cigarettes out of the machine in the entrance. I also remember the men’s bathroom had this crazy giant urinal…John Pinto, WHS Class
I believe Nick, Danny and Joey were each 5 per cent owners when the Trolley and Charlie Brown’s were sold to Restaurant Associates. Peter deLamos and Chuck Barondess were history by 1969 when I began at What’s Your Beef and the Trolley.Jeffrey Osmun
My first job as a salad boy !I know the recipe for the dressing use to make ! Moved up to busboy and then cook at What’s Your Beef in Plainfield. FYI the tables that were in what was called the alley along the firehouse side was actually a alley way that the horses were brought around to be hooked up to the fire apparatus.James Pfeiffer
Worked as a dish washer there in high school – after dinner closing at 11pm, the chefs would make us anything we wanted – steak & lobster every Saturday night !!Vince Balogh – WHS Class of 87 – younger brother of Mary Rita (Class of 80)
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Quick Facts – Jolly Trolley
Credo: “Yesterdays Charm at almost Yesterday’s prices”
- Address: 411 North Avenue, Westfield
- Building dates back to 1880 a full 31 years before the Westfield Fire House was built next door in 1911.
- 1910 – Mooney’s Hotel and Restaurant – W.W. Mooney
- 1950s – Plaza Bar and Hotel – George Chrone & family
- April 7, 1966 – Dave, Chuck and Peter launch the Jolly Trolley (Jolley Trolley, Jolly Trolley Saloon)
- The Jolly Trolley sponsored both bowling and softball teams. (Who has a jersey pic to share?)
- Good Time Charlies was the sister restaurant to the Jolly Trolley
- 1974 – Monier and Co. sold the Trolley, What’s Your Beef and Charlie Brown’s to Restaurant Associates part of a 30 restaurant chain deal.
- 1977 – Castle Harlan purchases a block of the restaurants for $50.4million including sister restaurants: What’s Your Beef (Plainfield), The Office (Scotch Plains), The Foolish Fox (Montgomery), Cahoots (Middlesex).
- Jan 20, 2005 – Trimaran Capital Partners- bought 54 restaurants including the Jolly Trolley for $140m. Russel Anton remains in charge (since 1977)
- 2005 – CB Holdings Corporation takes reigns of the company.
- August 30, 2009 – Corporate decision to remove the Trolley name after 43 1/2 years. New name: Office Bar & Grill
- May 6, 2016 – Last Office customers served. Last person turned out the light.
Preserving Westfields Local History with Keepsakes
Did you know that three iconic Westfield properties were recently added to the New Jersey Historic Village Collection? Learn More