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Stone Balloon redux closes in Newark 

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Stone Balloon Ale House Newark High 5 Hospitality

The Stone Balloon Ale House, the latest iteration of the famous Newark bar and music hall, closed in December after its owner decided not to renew its lease. | DBT PHOTO BY JACOB OWENS

NEWARK – The Stone Balloon, or at least the latest variation of the iconic bar that featured more craft beers than future Rock & Roll Hall of Famers, closed its doors last month.

Located at the site of the original two-story club that was torn down and redeveloped into the Washington House condominiums and ground-floor retail, the new Stone Balloon was owned by High 5 Hospitality, the Stanton-based hospitality company.

On Dec. 29, High 5 announced that it was not renewing its lease on Newark’s Main Street and closing the concept. It reportedly offered opportunities to the Stone Balloon’s staff to transfer to its other brands, which includes a number of Buffalo Wild Wings and Jersey Mike’s Subs locations. Notably, the Stone Balloon was one of only two original concepts in the company’s portfolio, along with Limestone BBQ in Stanton.

“We extend our heartfelt gratitude to our loyal Stone Balloon guests for their patronage throughout the years. As we close this chapter for the Stone Balloon, we aren’t sure what the future holds, but there is always a possibility that the Stone Balloon may rise again in the future,” said Bobby Pancake, the CEO of High 5, in a statement announcing the closure.

The original Stone Balloon Tavern and Concert Hall was opened by local entrepreneur Bill Stevenson in 1972 and rapidly became “one of the 100 Top College Bars in America,” according to Playboy magazine. Over its decades-long run, “The Balloon,” as it was known, hosted bands that would amass major fanbases like Bruce Springsteen and the E Street Band, The Allman Brothers Band, Dave Matthews Band, and Metallica, as well as local favorite George Thorogood and the Delaware Destroyers.

The iconic club closed in 2005, and the next year the old-stone building was torn down to build the complex there today. The later versions of the Stone Balloon name included first the Stone Balloon Winehouse, which featured an upscale wine menu, but it later adjusted its approach in 2013, when it partnered with 16 Mile Brewery Co. It dropped the Balloon name and focused more on craft beer and gastropub food.

High 5 acquired the location in 2014 and returned to its roots with the Stone Balloon Ale House, complete with throwbacks to its famous mug nights, décor and music history – although with condos now above the space it could no longer host bands.

In a Facebook post, the original founder Stevenson said he had spoken to Pancake and “understood the decision” to close the Stone Balloon’s latest chapter.

“It has been great to have a ‘mini museum’ of my creation, the original Stone Balloon Tavern and Concert Hall on Main Street, over the last seven years,” he wrote. “And, as they say, ‘All good things must end.’”

For High 5, the company reported that it was investing in the growth of its portfolio inside and outside Delaware, including extending its footprint into the greater Baltimore area with the new BWW GO concept, which focuses on takeout and delivery orders. It also recently opened a new Buffalo Wild Wings in Milford and is scheduled to open a Jersey Mike’s location off Kirkwood Highway this spring. 

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