Arenas Deli and Bar closed its doors after serving the city of Newark and the surrounding university campus for nearly seven years.
Lauren Magee / THE REVIEW

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Arenas Deli and Bar closed its doors after serving the city of Newark and the surrounding university campus for nearly seven years. The bar announced its closure in an Instagram post on March 26th.

Six of the seven Delaware locations were prior to the closure of the Main Street location in Sussex County. The chain’s New Castle County was the only arena outside of the southernmost county of Delaware.

Ramsey Schrader, a member of the Arena Ownership Team, said 2020 was tough and part of the reason for the change.

“Obviously, 2020 was a difficult year for us and many others. When an opportunity arose that we couldn’t miss, we had to make a change,” Schrader said in a statement via Instagram direct message. “Our exceptional people and leaders, led by Emily DelPizzo, have exceeded our expectations in such a difficult time.”

Former Arena employee Dan Holl said he received a call about the closure at 9 a.m. on the day the restaurant announced the closure. The arena bar server, bartender, and ground workers said he and the staff kept in touch outside of work, but the initial news came as a shock.

“It still hits us all,” said Holl.

Jake Kreisher, a university graduate and visitor to the arena, said he couldn’t believe the restaurant was closed when he first heard the news.

“I couldn’t believe it, and I haven’t been there for a while,” said Kreisher. “I imagined just like any other business they might suffer from, but I had no idea it would have been that bad.”

Despite the shock of the news, Kreisher described the restaurant as one of the easiest places to meet his customers and employees. The Delaware native said he had built multiple relationships with the restaurant staff and found the “real” atmosphere to be one of the restaurant’s greatest strengths.

“All of the staff were very friendly, a lot of people I knew, the environment was really inviting,” said Kreisher. “It was just a really real place.”

Holl said he believed that his and his employees’ openness and connection with customers began with employees enjoying their work. He saw the joy of going to work as something that stopped building customer relationships over time.

“When [the customers] See that you are having a good time, they will have a good time too, and then you can remember them a little more because you have good times with these customers, ”said Holl. “We have won many regulars there [are] lots of names to remember. “

The restaurant stayed open during some of the most bleak times of the ongoing global pandemic. Holl said that even during times when it felt uncomfortable to be around other people when COVID-19 cases were rising, the staff did their best to make sure people and customers were having a good time.

“We made sure that you feel welcome and that you feel comfortable here and that you can have good conversations,” said Holl. “I don’t think anyone was uncomfortable going there.”

The bar opened in late 2014, taking over the property at 168 East Main Street that used to be a pita pit and cold stone creamery. The restaurant served Newark residents as well as the large student population. An official announcement regarding the future use of the property has not yet been made.

Arena’s closure comes as four new establishments including Oishi Ocean Japanese & Cajun Seafood, Bowba Cha, Kung Fu Tea and Oishii Sushi & Ramen plan to make their mark on Main Street.