It’s not Moe’s Tavern, but dig into the history of this local bar and you’ll find the inspiration for the curmudgeonly barkeep of The Simpsons.
In 1933, after the repeal of Prohibition, former heavyweight boxer Louis “Red” Deutsch opened Tube Bar in Jersey City. The bar was named for its location on top of “The Tubes,” as the train tunnels running under the Hudson River to New York City were then called.
Red ran the place with an iron fist and a bizarre set of rules. There were no stools at the bar, where patrons were permitted to stand only if consuming spirits. Women were forbidden, as was eating or reading at the bar, and beer drinkers had to stand along the walls. Rulebreakers were ejected, by force if necessary.
In the 1970s, local residents Jim Davidson and John Elmo, who came to be known as the Bum Bar Bastards, began prank calling the bar, requesting to speak to customers with names like Phil Mypockets and Al Coholic. Red, who usually answered the phone, would call out the names, to the delight of the callers and patrons. When Red caught on, he would respond with obscene and violent threats, even offering the callers up to $500 to show themselves (they never took him up on it).
Recordings of the calls circulated on cassette tape in the 1980s and ’90s, and gained a cult following among fans, including The Simpsons creator Matt Groening. It’s believed that Red’s gravelly voice and his particular mix of gullibility and obscenities served as the inspiration for Moe Szyslak, the prickly proprietor of Moe’s Tavern.
Red retired to Florida in 1980 and sold the bar to Joseph Barone, who owned and operated it for nearly 30 more years. Under Joe’s tenure, the bar changed its name to the Journal Square Pub and moved across the street to its current location. The original concourse was demolished in 2009 when the transportation hub was redeveloped. In 2019, at age 93, Joe sold the bar to new owners, who rebranded it JSQ Lounge. The current incarnation retains many of the original Tube Bar elements, including a pink neon clock on the wall and the custom wooden bar.
Things are different these days—everyone’s welcome, there’s plenty of seating, and no one gets thrown out by the scruff of the neck. Just don’t ask to speak to Pepe Roni.