Famed Lenox Lounge jazz club to close on Dec. 31, owner Alvin Reed says; future of site uncertain
By Michael J. Feeney / NEW YORK DAILY NEWS
Harlem's famed Lenox Lounge, which has served as a home to jazz music for more than 70 years, will shut its doors at the end of the year, its owner confirmed this week.
The popular night spot — which has played host to such iconic performers as Billie Holiday and Miles Davis — has been acquired by Richard Notar, a longtime managing partner at Nobu Restaurants.
Notar was unavailable for comment, but his personal assisant Suzanne Daniels told the Daily News that he is taking over the lease. Daniels could not say whether Notar planned to maintain the space as a jazz club.
A sign posted outside Lenox Lounge by Community Board 10 advertises a public hearing for Notar’s application to obtain a liquor license.
Alvin Reed, who has owned the popular nightclub on Lenox Ave. near W. 125th St. since 1988, told The News on Tuesday that the cabaret was scheduled to close at the end of December, but he declined to say more.
Reed, who restored the lounge’s legend and luster a decade after he bought the decaying Art Deco gem, said his lawyer advised him not to make any more comments after he spoke openly about the closing to the New York Amsterdam News and Harlem radio station WHCR 90.3 FM.
Movies and television helped popularize the image of the 1930s-era cabaret and its famed Zebra Room, cementing it as one of Harlem’s signature spots.
Reed first told the Daily News about the possible closing of the lounge in an article published in March.
“I’m not selling the place; the landlord is increasing the rent, that I can’t pay,” Reed, a retired city cop and Postal worker who has insisted he never made much money off the lounge, told The News in that story.
Reed said his rent was being raised to $20,000, double what he has been paying and effectively forcing him out.
“I’m sad about it, but I’m realistic,” he also said last spring. “I can’t do too much about it.”
Reed did not renew his lease when it ended in June, but he managed to keep the historic jazz joint open a little while longer.
A new owner could not call the place the Lenox Lounge; Reed has said he owns the rights to the famous name, and he’s taking it with him.
“I’m not going to sell the name,” he said. “If they want to use Lenox Lounge, they will have to negotiate with me.”
Ray Chew, a Harlem musician and American Idol’s music director, was disappointed to hear the news.
“It’s a tremendous loss because of the long legacy of presenting great jazz there,” said Chew, who recalled playing at the lounge early in his career. “Historically, this has been one of the mainstays of Harlem...I’d be disappointed to see that name go.”
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