Meet the NJ Social Club Where Everybody Knows Your Name

The Study Hall Gang meets every Friday night at a local bar—these days at Fitzgerald’s 1928 in Glen Ridge.

Study Hall Gang pals Gail Testa, Paula Fields, Kent Daniel and Robert Fonana
Study Hall Gang pals Gail Testa, Paula Fields, Kent Daniel and Robert Fonana attend a recent event for the social group. Photo by Erik Rank

One night, Andrew Pincus and his wife, Beth Lawler, decided to go out for a drink in Montclair. They were tired and stressed from working and wanted to socialize. When they got to the bar, they scrolled through the names of friends on their phones, but couldn’t find anyone who could come out to join them. They realized that many of the friendships they had made through their kids had faded away.

That’s when Pincus decided to post an open drinks-and-hangout invitation on social media. The couple could meet people and potentially make new friends. His wife was skeptical, but supportive.

So he did it. If someone came, he’d even buy them a free drink.

They waited. And waited.

No one showed up.

He tried again the following week. Nothing.

The sixth week, his wife asked him to stop, saying, “You’re embarrassing us.” But that night in July, a man named Martin Schwartz showed up.

And the Study Hall Gang was born.

Study Hall Gang cofounders Beth Lawler and Andrew Pincus

The group’s cofounders, Beth Lawler and Andrew Pincus, host weekly events. Photo by Erik Rank

Now, the social group has blossomed to more than 250 members, and it’s still growing. It meets every Friday night at a local bar—these days at Fitzgerald’s 1928 in Glen Ridge.

The group connects people of different backgrounds who are all interested in meeting new people. There are Black, white, Asian, Latino, LGBTQ+, married, and single members. The youngest is 24 and the oldest just turned 80. And they come from all over North Jersey and even parts of New York state.

Bonnie Williams-Probert at a Study Hall Gang event

Member Bonnie Williams-Probert enjoys a recent meetup. Photo by Erik Rank

Pincus says that since the Study Hall Gang’s inception, the group’s members have become more like family than social acquaintances. “I started the group because I was lonely. It’s very hard to make friends as a middle-aged man,” says Pincus, a 55-year-old attorney. “Now it’s like Cheers—after three weeks, everyone here knows you.”

On a recent night, it did indeed feel like a cozy gathering of old friends. Everyone who entered the bar was greeted and usually kissed and hugged by one of the other members.

Christine MacInnes and Ross Pennise met at one of the club’s meetings in May 2017. “He asked me out and I said no,” she remembers. “By the end of the night, we were kissing in the corner!” Two years later, they got married. They still come to the Friday-night meetings, but now they come together.

Since the social club started, it has spun off a book club, wine and beer tastings, and a chili cook-off, as well as parties for New Year’s Eve, Halloween and the end of summer.

Pincus says there’s even a rumor that the Study Hall Gang is a swingers club, but says, “It isn’t true of course, but we think it’s funny, so we do little to quash it.”

To join, Pincus asks that potential members come in person; they can message him first on social media or via the website And the first drink is usually on him.

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