Reunion Hall: 56 Taps, Three Food Concepts, Five Years in the Making


Dave Welsh opens his modern beer garden concept this week in Haddon Township.

By Matt Skoufalos | January 9, 2024

Dave Welsh stands outside the Napa Auto store in Haddon Township in 2019. Credit: Matt Skoufalos.

A little less than five years ago, Dave Welsh stood outside the Napa Auto Parts store in his native Haddon Township, dreaming.

Welsh — who owns Running Co of Haddonfield, Moorestown, and Mullica Hill, as well as The Mile bar and restaurant in Runnemede — had just closed on the property at 206 Haddon Avenue, where he planned to construct a modern beer garden he named Reunion Hall.

At the outset, he was looking at a one- or two-year build on the project.

But there were delays.

It took almost a year to present plans for the space to the Haddon Township land use board, and navigate the revisions followed. Meanwhile, the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic hit, which derailed construction plans and refocused attention on Welsh’s other retail businesses.

Next he spent a year-and-a-half fighting a legal challenge from his neighbors at the Haddon Towne Center, Fieldstone Associates, over parking capacity in the area. (Despite prevailing in state superior court, Welsh is still fighting the matter in appellate court.)

The build-out saga officially comes to an end Wednesday, when Reunion Hall opens the doors to its indoor/outdoor taproom and dining hall, and Welsh can finally focus on delivering the project he’s had in mind all this time to his Haddon Township neighbors.

“Between The Mile and COVID, I learned what this thing should be,” Welsh said. “The ramifications almost become a blessing. I had a vision of what I wanted, but as the timeline kept extending, I kept evolving the design.

Dave Welsh’s first running medal is embedded into a ledge at Reunion Hall. Credit: Matt Skoufalos.

“Runners don’t give up,” he said.

“You suck it up and move on.”

There are nods to Welsh’s lifelong competitive running career embedded within the design details of the 5,000-square-feet space, including the first medal he won as a member of the Haddon Township High School freshman cross-country team in October 1991.

“When we won that little freshman team title, that was what got me into running,” Welsh said.

“It cured me of sitting around, and I’ve run ever since.”

The name “Reunion Hall” also describes Welsh’s conceit of the taproom as a place for neighbors and local alums to gather for special events, holiday parties, and weekend celebrations.

It’s a social opportunity he feels has been lacking since the pandemic.

“I’ve hosted my high-school reunion since I was 21, and went from there,” Welsh said. “I want to get people back out, face to face, not behind a computer.”

Dave Welsh at the counter of Reunion Hall in Haddon Township. The 56-beer taplist is a signature element of its design. Credit: Matt Skoufalos.

‘A restaurant that feels like a brewery’

In Reunion Hall, Welsh has aimed to create an atmosphere that’s comfortable for socializing, while also catering to beer drinkers whose tastes have gotten more sophisticated along with the expansion of the New Jersey craft beer scene.

His opening day tap list showcases 30 different New Jersey breweries, from locals to those a bit farther-flung, across a range of styles.

It’s a model he debuted at The Mile in Runnemede, elevated to its next level in Westmont.

Beers from The Seed, Twin Elephant, Farm Truck, Brix City, Heavy Reel, Conclave, Whims, and Bolero, are all represented in the 56 taps at the main bar, as are big out-of-state names like Tired Hands, The Veil, Foam, Root & Branch, Drekker, Finback, and Froth.

“Right now in New Jersey, I’d say people prefer to go to a brewery over a restaurant, so why not make your restaurant feel like a brewery and still be a restaurant?” Welsh said.

Reunion Hall offers both kinds of environments, its tap list complemented by three, independently operated food concepts that Welsh describes as food-truck-sized in a trio of kitchens at the rear of the main room. His hope is that they will support late-night dining while helping build back a lunch and happy hour business that Haddon Township has been missing since the onset of the pandemic.

“If you’re not in the office, you’re going to sit at home,” Welsh said. “We wanted to make something comfortable enough that you feel like you’re at home.”

The dining room at Reunion Hall in Westmont features natural wood elements, skylights, and a high-tech A/V system. Credit: Matt Skoufalos.

To that end, Reunion Hall is designed with a contemporary feel that marries reclaimed barn wood and barrel staves with a purpose-built, high-end A/V system.

Skylights, garage-door windows, and an all-seasons patio bar allow the room to pivot with the weather, while multimedia streaming and cable sources feed 13 4K Samsung HD televisions throughout the main hall.

The outdoor space features a digitally controlled pergola with color-changing LEDs, fans, and gas-powered heaters.

A step-down area leads to a communal firepit as well as a turfed-in greenspace for yard games, which Welsh believes will hold outdoor events, private parties, community fundraisers, and possibly a farmers market.

All these design elements, plus its proximity to the Westmont PATCO station and nearby parking, are intended to create a space that will draw in out-of-town visitors while creating employment. With a front-of-house staff of 48, plus employees at the individual kitchen stalls, Welsh said Reunion Hall should add some 70 local jobs.

Reunion Hall was built by local businesses like RGC General Contracting, RJ Miller Roofing, M. R. Neel Plumbing and Heating, and Hi Solutions. Its trio of onsite eateries — Chicken Joint, Local Standards, and Poppy Taco — are likewise rooted in the area. All three are independently operated, but guests will see a single check for food and drink.

Clockwise, from left: Ed Strojan, Ashley Coyne, Joe Gentile. Credit: NJ Pen.

The arrangement was especially appealing to Ed Strojan of Haddonfield, whose Chicken Joint will serve chicken wings, tenders, sandwiches, and tater tots, complemented with house-made sauces.

Strojan, who formerly operated the British Chip Shop in Haddonfield and the Victoria Freehouse in Philadelphia, and now teaches cooking classes at Old City Kitchen in Philadelphia, said the food hall layout was one of the things that “made it easy for me to say yes” to the concept.

“Everyone is doing their own specialty, and there’s no competition,” Strojan said.

“Everybody’s just supporting each other. It’s been really nice.”

He believes Reunion Hall is “a great opportunity for the neighborhood and the surrounding towns.

“There’s not really anything like this big, communal beer hall vibe; a place where you can go and relax, meet up with friends,” Strojan said.

“That’s what I’m envisioning: a place that people can go and hang out there all day.”

Poppy Taco tortillas. Credit: Ashley Coyne.

Ashley Coyne, whose restaurant GoodBeet has been a mainstay of Haddon Avenue for diners with dietary restrictions since 2015, said anticipation for Reunion Hall’s opening couldn’t be higher.

“We’ve been talking about it for four years,” Coyne said.

“I’m so used to people asking me what’s going on with this place.”

Coyne’s Poppy Taco concept will offer a variety of gluten-free, vegan, and organic dishes — including nachos, tacos, tortilla chips and salsa, guacamole, and cashew queso — plus vegan soft serve.

“A group of people with all different preferences can get something here,” she said, “and I’m excited that this will be the place to go watch sports.”

Joe Gentile, whose Local Standards will mirror many of the offerings served at his Local Links Market Café in Haddon Heights, said Reunion Hall has been “a long time coming.

“Four years ago, when I met with Dave and he gave me the lowdown on the concept, I was excited because I knew that was the fit for what Local Links was doing,” Gentile said.

Local Standards smoked pork sandwich and fresh-cut fries. Credit: Joe Gentile.

Local Standards will serve a lot of grilled favorites, from cheesesteaks and smash burgers to fresh-cut fries, smoked pork sandwiches, Cubanos, and reverse nachos, a taco-like salad with tortilla chips, meat, and cheese.

In addition to building distinct and complementary menus, Gentile said his fellow restaurateurs at Reunion Hall are also supportive of one another and the larger goal they share of filling a niche in the community.

“You have all these other professionals in the industry that you can bounce ideas off and collaborate, which is what I was talking about doing with Local Links when I started,” he said.

“We’ve been talking about how we can maximize the output and give everybody an opportunity to put in what they need to put in,” Gentile said. “It’s a great concept, and I was happy that we all met each other.”

Reunion Hall is located at 206 Haddon Avenue in Haddon Township. Its doors are set to open Wednesday, January 10, 2024. For more information, visit the business website.

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