Jazz club coming to downtown Suffolk

Published 12:00 am Monday, January 17, 2005

Local jazz lovers have always had to leave the area to catch a top performance.

But that will change this fall, when two northern Suffolk men – Horace Balmer and Sherwin C. Turner – open Main Street Jazz Restaurant.

On Thursday, Balmer and Turner signed a contract for a downtown Suffolk building they plan to turn into an upscale eatery and jazz club. They declined to identify the exact location of the 6000- to 8,000-square-foot building until the deal is sealed.

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&uot;I got tired of traveling to other areas for jazz,&uot; said Balmer, a Norfolk native who returned to the area last year. A retired New York Police Department detective and more recently security vice president for the NBA, Balmer is co-owner of Showmans, a jazz club in Harlem.

&uot;There is no full-blown jazz club in Hampton Roads,&uot; Turner said. &uot;We’re going to build a jazz club and bring in acts …that will bring people from other areas to Suffolk.

&uot;We’re trying to pump Suffolk up.&uot;

Balmer said he hopes to draw some of the high profile entertainers that perform at Showmans-such as guitarist George Benson and sax player Lonny Youngblood-to Suffolk.

Though its focus will be traditional jazz, Main Street’s will serve up a plethora of musical entertainment:

blues, R&B, even country/western.

&uot;And we absolutely want to showcase local entertainment,&uot; Balmer said. &uot;There are people who play locally who never get the opportunity to be seen or heard.

&uot;How can you ever make it big if no one can ever see or hear you? We’re going to change that.&uot;

Balmer and Turner believe Suffolk, with its rapid growth, can support a jazz club as well as the many other restaurants moving into the downtown Suffolk.

Over the next few weeks, Elizabeth McCoury, downtown development director, expects to announce the opening of several new eateries in downtown Suffolk: a family-style Italian restaurant, an upscale Italian restaurant and an upscale sandwich shop.

&uot;There is a lot of big money in Suffolk that is now being spent in Virginia Beach and Norfolk,&uot; Turner said. &uot;We are trying to get keep some of this money in Suffolk.&uot;

Balmer said he is excited about the opportunity.

&uot;Suffolk is a gem,&uot; he said. &uot;As residents of Suffolk, we are looking forward to helping improve downtown.&uot;