AI’s Airport Inn keeps it laid-back and all in the family

From the outside, it’s a normal farmhouse. Minus the glowing neon signs in the windows, drivers exiting off Route 95 might mistake the aging building for a residential home.

Fading yellow siding adorns the two-story house, clad with green shutters and complete with a broad front porch. Inside the establishment, black and white old-style photos adorn the red brick and dark oak walls.

A long mahogany bar is at the forefront of the main section, which is studded with colored liquor bottles and assorted memorabilia. It’s lit to perfection; calmingly dim after a long day, yet filled with enough warmth to welcome the awaiting patron to sit atop a bar stool and socialize, just as they did 200 years ago.

No, this is not a classic British pub. This is West Trenton. Al’s Airport Inn, located at 636 Bear Tavern Road, is only minutes from the College’s campus. Open every day from 3 p.m. to 2 a.m., Al’s is a hangout among both locals and college students.

“It’s a cool place because it’s not one of the most well-known bars around, but you never know who you’ll end up talking to over a beer,” Aimee Fisher, a 2002 graduate of the College, said. “And you can buy alcohol there until 2 a.m.” she added.

The current owners, Joe and Caroline Bondi, have been in possession of the bar for over 50 years. “It was a blessing,” Anthony Bondi, a bartender, said, referring to the way his great grandmother, Kay Bondi, inherited the bar.

According to Bondi, Al Jones, a local landowner, gave the inn to his longtime worker, Kay, upon his death. “He owned basically all of West Trenton. And he left a lot of what he owned to others,” said Bondi, who enjoys taking part in the family tradition of running the Inn. “Al was real generous,” he added.

The place itself is steeped in history. Al’s has been a bar and inn since the 1800s and was a speakeasy during prohibition. Not only is Al’s Airport Inn a family owned business, it boasts one of the oldest liquor licenses in the area.

“It has a Class C license,” Melissa Kostecki, a College graduate of this past May, said. It was grandfathered in, and can have liquor, food, dancing – there’s no limit.”

Kostecki, who has been a bartender at Al’s for 18 years, remembers past times of lower drinking ages and less liability for bar management. “The bar would be packed three or four people deep. Days were different then,” she said.

But what hasn’t changed is the comfortable, laid-back atmosphere. Kostecki currently works in the banking industry but still returns to hang out at the Inn.

“This is like my home. It’s kind of like Cheers,” she said from her position atop a barstool.

The bar is equipped with everything needed for a low key night with friends. A fully loaded juke box, pinball machine, dartboards, quiz games and slide bowling provide some added entertainment. On tap, drinkers can chose from a wide assortment of brews, whether its the bar staples of Budweiser, Yuengling and Guinness or favorites like Magic Hat #9, Blind Faith, Flying Fish and Woodchuck Cider.

Al’s also has daily drink specials. Prices are reasonable, with $7 domestic pitchers, and $12 for imports. From 3 p.m. to 8 p.m., appetizers of wings, mozzarella sticks, chicken fingers and poppers are priced at only $1.99.