Those who stroll up and down Newark’s Main Street will notice that a familiar pillar of the downtown food scene is now missing.
Stone Balloon Ale House permanently closed last month following a break for the holidays, its owners, High 5 Hospitality, announced on Facebook.
“We extend our heartfelt gratitude to our loyal Stone Balloon guests for their patronage throughout the years,” High 5 Hospitality CEO Bobby Pancake said in a press release. “We aren’t sure what the future holds, but there is always a possibility that the Stone Balloon may rise again in the future.”
The restaurant celebrated its 50th anniversary in 2022, although the establishment had already undergone a major change in operations.
Decades ago, Stone Balloon was a popular concert hall and live music spot. It hosted Metallica, Bruce Springsteen and Dave Matthews, among other artists and bands. In 2005, the establishment temporarily closed after 33 years of operation.
Pancake reopened it in 2014, rebranding the highly regarded Main Street venue as a rock ‘n’ roll-themed restaurant with historic decor adorning the walls.
“It seemed like such a staple of the student community, both undergraduate students and graduate students,” Caroline Smith, a university alum, said. “So when we heard it was closing, it was sad.”
Smith, who attended the university from 1998 to 2005, attended concerts and “mug nights” at the original Stone Balloon. Her husband, also a university alum, has his mug saved to this day.
“It was a place where we would go to hear live music and hang out, take a break from our studies,” Smith said. “There were just a lot of good memories and times with friends … It has a soft spot in my heart.”
Hundreds of alumni and former customers shared memories and thoughts on the Facebook announcement. Stone Balloon shared select memories, including some from those who met their spouses at the original version of the restaurant.
Employees at the Stone Balloon will be able to relocate to other locations owned by the company. The press release emphasized High 5’s focus on ventures elsewhere in the state: a Buffalo Wild Wings in Milford and a Jersey Mike’s Subs coming to Kirkwood Highway this spring.
High 5 Hospitality is also looking to expand in the Baltimore area, the release read. High 5 Hospitality did not respond to The Review’s request for comment on the Stone Balloon’s closure.
2SPizza on Main Street closes up shop
Not too far down Main Street is another empty storefront, this one vacated by 2SPizza, a pizzeria that opened last February.
The restaurant was launched by the owners of the Two Stones Pub, but Delaware Online/The News Journal reported that there was not enough foot traffic to sustain the business.
It is listed for sale for $300,000, with descriptions about the recent renovations done in 2022.
“With a huge thanks to all, while holding back tears, we have to post that our last day of being operators on Main Street Newark with 2SPizza will be this Sunday, Jan. 21,” owner Michael J. Stiglitz said on Facebook. “Our amazing 2SP family members will be moving on to our sister restaurants.”