Jazz club set to open in December

Published 12:00 am Tuesday, October 25, 2005

A single steel support frames what soon will be a mahogany-trimmed bar.

Eventually, chandeliers will hang from twin holes in the first-floor ceiling, overlooking the intimate stage that will house a baby grand piano.

Within weeks, the din of construction coming from 136 S. Main St. will give way to the swinging sound of jazz, say Horace Balmer and Sherwin Turner, owners of Main Street Jazz Restaurant.

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Downtown’s newest entertainment will make its long-awaited debut on Suffolk’s stage in early December. Although they declined to pinpoint a specific date, the club already has a full house for New Year’s Eve.

&uot;We’ve stopped taking reservations for that night,&uot; said Turner.

Balmer and Turner plan to introduce the club to Suffolk with festivities designed to carry patrons back to New Orleans’ jazz roots, complete with street musicians, a horse-drawn carriage and plenty of Cajun-influenced food.

&uot;We are going to pay homage to the past during our opening,&uot; Turner said. &uot;It’s going to be grand.&uot;

The $1.4 million renovation to the three-story, 9,600-square-foot building – originally built around 1900 as a wagon and cart factory – began about two months ago.

&uot;If you look at Main Street Jazz every day for the next month, you will see a rough rock turned into a diamond,&uot; Balmer said. &uot;We can’t wait to open.&uot;

The bottom floor of the building will house an upscale restaurant, a bar and private dining room, Balmer said. Tiered decks are being built off to the north side of the building, allowing for outside dining for up to 35 during good weather.

The second floor will be Main Street’s entertainment hub, a night club area featuring cabaret and booth seating for 160 to 180 people, a second bar area and a 160-square-foot performance stage. The upper floors will be accessible by elevator.

The third floor will be used for offices and dressing rooms for performers, Balmer said.

A second baby grand and a restored 1957 Hammond B-3 organ will make their homes on the second floor.

Balmer and Turner had expected it would take a nationwide search to find a B-3, a necessity for any jazz club. Ironically, one of the country’s leading rebuilders of Hammond organs, Spicer Anderson, lives in Suffolk, Turner added.

Balmer and Turner have tapped another Suffolk talent, Fannie Gayle, former owner of the Front Street Restaurant, to oversee their kitchen.

People are excited that she is coming back to town, Balmer added.

&uot;We will be the most unique jazz club in Hampton Roads,&uot; he said.

Balmer, co-owner of a Harlem jazz club, will be drawing on his rich musical contacts to woo big-name jazz and blues artists to Suffolk. He declined to name artists already on the books until after the grand opening.

But the entertainment will also thrive between weekends, Turner said. For example, he said, each week, Main Street will feature big band music, open mic nights for local performers, and gospel brunches on Sundays.

Balmer and Turner, longtime friends and jazz buffs living in northern Suffolk, decided to open Main Street after finding few jazz venues in the region. Both believe it is will add to the constantly changing face of downtown.

&uot;Suffolk is going to be the place to come for dinner and entertainment,&uot; Turner said. &uot;We feel like this venture will bring jazz lovers from across Hampton Roads into downtown Suffolk.&uot;