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Main Street Jazz Restaurant offers much in the way of entertainment

Before the Main Street Jazz Restaurant was even thought of, many people in Suffolk used to make negative statements about living in Suffolk by saying, “We need a nice place in Suffolk to go to for entertainment.”

After the location bore the sign Main Street Jazz Restaurant for many months, many asked, “When is that place going to open so that we will have someplace to go?”

I know, because many asked me and I, too, must confess I was one of those people. When it did finally open on Jan. 12, the attendance was outstanding, and it the most talked about restaurant in Suffolk. I call it a place that offers more than just food.

My first time at the restaurant was about two months ago at an “Open Mic Night” event, with one of my best friends, Gail Hinton-Copeland. It’s the one night that diners can find some free entertainment.

And there are other events as well. One of them is the Gospel Brunch that takes place each Sunday from 2-5 p.m.

I went back to the restaurant Sunday, at the invitation of Copeland, specifically for the brunch. My friend is a member of Second Chance,

the featured gospel group that day.

The restaurant began putting on this program about six weeks ago. I learned Sunday, from Horace Balmer, proprietor, that for the first program, only two people showed up. For the second, only 16 people showed up, but on the third week the restaurant was half full.

The top floor, where these concerts are held, can hold up to 125 people, and since Second Chance is a well-known and popular group in this area, there was a large crowd. Now the group has signed a contract with proprietors Balmer and Sherwin Turner to appear there for concerts every second and fourth Sunday of the month.

Second Chance, which is directed by Earlene Lee, has been singing together for 11 years, has 18 members, down from

22. Some have dropped out because of sickness or for educational purposes. They once had instrumental members, but some went back to the churches they belong to and some went into the studio to make recordings. Now the group includes singers only, performing with background music from CD recordings. Music includes contemporary and gospel tunes. Their next appearance at the restaurant will be on Mother’s Day, May 14.

Another group that has brought outstanding attendance to the restaurant is Joseph and Mary. This group is led by a married couple, Joseph and Mary and includes 12 additional singers and instrumental members. Joseph is also a minister. This group brought a crowd that resulted in standing room only at the time of its performance. Quartets are also included in the roster of gospel guests.

Balmer said that most of the groups that the restaurant chooses love to entertain, love to see people happy, and produce hand clapping and foot stomping music in a smoke free atmosphere.

Other special events include: Monday, Blues Night;

Friday and Saturday, major jazz or blues by top artists; and a new event that is about to start on Thursday, Latin Music Night.

Even though alcoholic beverages are sold at some of the other events, none are offered during the Gospel Brunch. Balmer said that these beverages have been requested by a few people, but he has respect for the sacredness of this sort of program. Knowing he may lose some customers because of this policy, when it comes to choosing God over a dollar, he chooses God.

I was very satisfied with my very first visit on Open Mic Night, which is the reason, along with Copeland’s invitation, why I took a second chance eating at the restaurant during the Gospel Brunch. Therefore, I am planning to take a second chance at the group’s next gospel performance on Mother’s Day, which will be my third time eating at the restaurant.

Wall is a former News-Herald reporter and regular contributor to the Town Square Page.