The Lenox Lounge, Harlem’s hallowed jazz club which closed on December 31 after a rent dispute between the club’s owner, Alvin Reed, and the space’s landlord, Ricky Edmonds, is opening up again two blocks north of its original location.
The club will move to 333 Lenox Avenue, between 126th and 127th Streets.
Richard Notar, a former managing partner at Nobu, took over the space on January 1 after Reed–unable to afford the rent, which had been raised from $10,000 to $20,000–moved out. Notar told The Voice in early January that he wants to change the club’s menu and “create more range in the musical experience” without changing the Lenox Lounge’s identity. (The tentative name is Notar Jazz Club.)
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He’d like to keep jazz on the schedule, but also make room for other acts and other genres–John Legend, and Lady Gaga, even.
Reed didn’t go quietly. He took the club’s iconic sign, to which he owns the trademark, along with its classic art deco accouterments.
David F. Gibson, a drummer who led a Monday night jam session at the Lenox Lounge with the Sugar Hill Quartet, said he shined a light into the club at night shortly after it had been stripped.
“He took out the bar, the front doors, the doors in between the two rooms, and the doors off the bathrooms. I couldn’t see what else,” Gibson says. “But I think he’s entitled to take that stuff because he remodeled it,” Gibson adds, alluding to a costly renovation– unded by a $450,000 loan from the Upper Manhattan Empowerment Zone –undertaken by Reed in 1999.
Reed says he plans to open up the new Lenox Lounge, which has a kitchen and two floors with the option for a third floor, in the summer.
Edmonds, Reed’s old landlord, told The New York Times “we’re going to do everything in our means to get it back,” referring to the club’s sign and the interior furnishings Reed left with.
“I don’t know what’s going on on that side of it. I took what belongs to me,” Reed says, adding: “I did what any other business would have done. I wasn’t just going to walk away.”
When asked if he plans to recreate the environment of the old club, Reed responds with a resounding “absolutely.”
“We’re going to keep it as an authentic local bar, restaurant and jazz club,” Reed explains. He says he’d like to bring back the regular musical acts, like the Sugar Hill Quartet, when the new place opens for business.
Gibson says one of the attractions of the old space, on Lenox Avenue just south of 125th Street, was its location. “You could get off the 2 train and you were right there,” he says. “So I don’t know how the new place is going to be with tourists, who have to walk two blocks up now. I just hope that when it opens up that we can recreate what was. But who knows, we might even be able to create something new.”