19 April 2018

Venis Tavern - Dachshund Tavern - Billy Jack's (1929 - 1985)

Webster's defines a tavern as "an establishment where alcoholic beverages are sold to be drunk on the premises." Hence, during the period of Prohibition between 1920 and 1933, there were no taverns in Hillsborough. Instead, there were halls. Music halls, dance halls, catering halls, etc. Farley had a hall, Palahach had a hall and Theodore and Catherine Venis had a hall.

7 October 1935 Courier News
They immigrated to America early in the century - Theodore from Greece in 1906 at the age of eighteen and Catherine from Romania in 1909 at the age of sixteen. They met, married, and settled in Hillsborough, New Jersey in 1929, soon opening the Venis Dance Hall, Boarding House, and Service Station on Route 206 across from the southeast corner of the Duke Estate. 

28 April 1936 Courier News
Much like other similar establishments in Hillsborough, we can assume that the Dance Hall served food and non-alcoholic refreshment, held dances and was available for private functions. The boarding house behind the hall, whose thirteen rooms each had two beds, catered mostly to summer boarders. Catherine Venis was one of the first proprietors in Hillsborough to apply for a beer license when they became available in 1933, and it was likely at this time that the name of the establishment was changed to Venis Tavern.

12 June 1941 Courier News
The couple continued to run the tavern for the next two decades, somehow finding the time to raise a large family whose progeny became ubiquitous in Hillsborough for decades.

17 June 1963 Courier News
At some point between 1955 and 1958, the business was acquired by Albert "Slim" Everett and the name was changed to Dachsund Tavern.  The tavern was sold again around 1975, likely to its final owner William Tepper. The name was changed once again to Billy Jack's - but was also known in the 1980s as Players Assembly Tavern. Many Hillsboroughians recall being served their first underage drink here in the 70s and 80s, and it wouldn't have been a shock to see Doris Duke at the pool table.

1979 Aerial View
The tavern made the news in January 1984 when Tepper was accused of harassing a disabled patron by telling him to keep his wheelchair in a corner and not go near the bar (he was cleared of any wrongdoing the next year) but by that time Tepper had other plans. In March he received approval from the Board of Adjustment to build a 48-lane bowling alley on the east side of Route 206 near the Raider Boulevard intersection and to extend Raider Boulevard across the highway to a planned 17-unit industrial park. He planned to transfer the Billy Jack's liquor license to the bowling alley. After spending the next year trying to make that all happen, Billy Jack's was quietly closed and the building demolished some time at the end of 1985 or beginning of 1986.

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