Krystal Lounge

789 Chestnut Street

789 Chestnut Street apparently was a bar before Prohibition. In 1887 and 1888 Philip Barr is listed in the Camden City Directory as operating a saloon at this address. The 1908 directory shows a John A. Gorman, and the 1918-1919 city directory reveals that Walter D. Leonard was the proprietor at that time.

The bar was owned and operated for many years by Max Weisfeld, a Jewish immigrant from Russia, who had come to America in 1903 and had settled on Kaighn Avenue by 1920, operating a grocery store at the time of the census. By 1931 he had established himself at 789 Chestnut Street, where he operated the bar, selling near beer. When Prohibition was repealed in 1933, Max Weisfeld obtained a liquor license. He would run the bar until his death in 1942. The Weisfeld family would own and operate the bar, which was known as Weisfeld’s Cafe, into the early 1970s. Daughter Sara Weisfeld lived above the bar during this entire period, before moving to Cherry Hill some time after 1970. She passed away in January of 1980.

The bar would then change hands at least three times during the 1970s and 1980s. At some point during this time, Camden political figure Theodore “Teddy” Hinson was involved in the bar’s ownership.

Krystal Lounge was founded in the late 1980s by Betty Sawyer, and named for her infant grand-daughter. She had purchased the bar, which had been previously known in the late 70s and 80s as Mommie’s and Just Pals, and completely remodeled the inside. Betty Sawyer hired the best bar staff she could find, put her bar-persons in uniform, and set the standard for Camden’s bars, a standard that would be held for several years after her death from cancer in early 1992.

After Ms. Sawyer passed, the bar was purchased by two partners, Lloyd Pugh and Diane Burnette, who had been Ms. Sawyer’s manager, in July of 1992. She hired Phil “Funky White Boy” Casden to play music at the bar on Thursday, Friday, and Sunday nights. Soon Krystal Lounge became known far and wide for its music, and drew a regular crowd from throughout South Jersey, southeastern Pennsylvania, and Delaware. Krystal Lounge was generally recognized in the 1990s as the spot to be for the black over-35 market. Phil Casden would remain at Krystal Lounge through 2002.

Krystal Lounge would also gain renown for food, its kitchen for years serving dungeness crabs. While Holmes Lounge in East Camden gained much notoriety for their crabs during this period, Krystal Lounge’s trade rivaled theirs during the 1990s.

In the late 1990s, Mr. Pugh bought out Ms. Burnette’s interest in the bar. Krystal Lounge remains open today, one of the few bars that has survived in South Camden.

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