The Bethesda Blues and Jazz Supper Club, set to take over the Bethesda Theatre, will likely open by early December, according to club proprietor Rick Brown.
Following its renovation, the Wisconsin Avenue landmark will feature “300 seats for dinner, a beautiful new 40 foot bar and lounge and 200 additional performance seats,” according to the club’s website.
“This is not a mosh pit or a stand-up concert venue, this is a sit-down venue [with] tablecloths, candlelight – it’s a very nice setting for high quality entertainment,” Brown said.
The club will also feature a dance floor, Brown said.
Director of Operations Ralph Camilli, who spent the last 15 years of his 35-year career booking and promoting entertainment at the Blues Alley, will be charged with attracting acts to the club, Brown said.
Camilli, who has also worked at The Cellar Door, is a noted name in the music club business.
According to the club’s website, “at Blues Alley, Ralph added to the long list of legends he was privileged to work with, so many of them known by their first name alone: Dizzy, Sarah, Maynard, Betty, Tony, Carmen, Eartha, Phyllis, Sonny, Chick, and Nancy.”
When it comes to the food, Chef Moses Jackson will serve up authentic New Orleans-style Creole cuisine, Brown said.
The food will also include vegetarian, gluten-free and kosher options along with steak and seafood specials, Brown said.
A press conference is planned once the new club is halfway through construction and the opening date is firmed up, Brown said.
Bethesdans will get a chance to sample the food before the club opens. The supper club is set to participate in the Taste of Bethesda Oct. 6.
The Bethesda Theatre first opened in 1938 as an art deco movie house. In 2007, it became an Off-Broadway performance hub following a $12 million renovation by the Bozutto Group. The non-profit that operated the theater, the Bethesda Cultural Alliance, partnered with Nederlander Worldwide Entertainment to produce several shows there.
But in 2008, the theater suffered a financial hit when a flood caused it to go dark temporarily as it began a run of "Smokey Joe's Café.” Following the dissolution of the partnership with Nederlander in 2009, the theater remained open as a rental venue until its 2010 foreclosure.
Then, in February, Bethesda Blues LLC purchased the theater for $2,895,000 and announced its vision to “re-incarnate” the space as a blues and jazz supper club.
“Lots of artists would play very well here,” Brown said.