Popular bar in Little Falls saved from highway expansion

Darla Miles Image
Saturday, April 16, 2016
Historic bar in Little Falls spared from highway expansion
Darla Miles reports from Little Falls, New Jersey.

LITTLE FALLS, New Jersey (WABC) -- It was "this-close" to "final call" for a popular bar in New Jersey. A new highway interchange had a bullseye on the bar. The wrecking ball was on its way.

But the people spoke up and the bar has been saved! It's a small victory for folks in the town of Little Falls, but a sweet victory.

"We're old school here. Pound for pound some of the best entertainment you can find," said Rich Hempel, the bar's owner.

That fact has actually never been up for debate. Not at least for the last 92 years when there was general store in the front and a bootlegging operation in the back.

"This was actually The Green Chateau, this is before the Great Notch Inn, this is on the same property, this is right out in the middle where the highway is right now. If you look in this picture, that dirt road right there is what turned into Route 46," Hempel said.

Now the Great Notch Inn, which is actually a bar not a hotel, is an adorable little building passed by hundreds of commuters everyday on Route 46 in Little Falls.

"They decided to go around us which is good and we're happy because we've been here longer than the highway," Hempel said.

An expansion plan crafted by the New Jersey Department of Transportation was set to use eminent domain to widen the highway, right through the beloved roadhouse that has been in the family three generations.

"And my grandfather lived here so for me, this was this was going to grandpa's and grandma's house," Hempel said.

That plan is out the window. The DOT recently broke ground on an access road behind the bar. So the building isn't going anywhere.

A written statement from NJDOT reads in part: "NJDOT goes to extensive lengths to minimize the impact to residents and businesses when it designs projects, particularly when it relates to acquiring property."

Hempel still lost a third of his property, but the 1930's house turned bar is still there, treating everyone who comes in like they're in his family's home.

"We just treat people right and make them want come back," Hempel said.