Velvet Lounge to play again

Ald. Fioretti questioning who'll run Fred Anderson's famous jazz club

11/30/2011 10:00 PM


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Fred Anderson, world-renowned jazz artist and former proprietor of the Velvet Lounge.
File 2005/Staff

The Velvet Lounge, one of Chicago’s best known jazz clubs and a South Loop staple, is poised to reopen as soon as the beginning of next year, according to owners of a neighboring pizza place.

The owners of Pizzeria Brandi, whose address is the same as the Velvet Lounge, 67 E. Cermak Rd., are planning on reopening the famous jazz club founded by saxophonist Fred Anderson. They’ve created a new website for it, noted first on the blog Sloopin, saying the club will reopen in January 2012.

The website claims that the reopened club will have live music all week, though not much of it will be jazz. Instead, the site advertises a rotating lineup featuring country on Mondays, comedy on Tuesdays, Latin on Thursdays and DJs on Saturday. Sunday is the only night reserved specifically for live jazz.

There’s not much information available about the club beyond that, but a phone number listed on the site is the same as Pizzeria Brandi’s, and employees of the restaurant confirmed that the former jazz club is reopening soon. Messages left for the pizzeria’s owners by Chicago Journal were not returned.

From outside the Velvet Lounge, it’s clear that not much has changed since it was shuttered in the months after Anderson’s death. Chairs and tables sit unused, and the club’s iconic neon sign remains, though it’s unlit.

In the pizzeria next door, a piece of plastic sheeting hangs by a thread in a doorway leading to the club, marked off with a simple plastic sign reading “do not enter.”

Ald. Bob Fioretti (2nd) said he’s skeptical of the plans to reopen the club and seemed miffed that the pizzeria’s owners had moved forward on the project without working with his office.

Particularly, Fioretti was unsure what the status of the club’s liquor licenses was — whether the old Velvet Lounge’s license would carry over to a new club with new ownership, or whether they’d done unpermitted construction to combine the two spaces.

“Somebody representing the pizza place came in during the summer and said they were thinking about it,” Fioretti said last week, but said he hadn’t heard from them since. “They may be running it at their own peril, because you can’t just cut a hole in the wall.”

Fioretti has spoken often of Anderson since the saxophonist’s death and is planning on naming a park at the intersection of 16th Street and Wabash Avenue after the jazz man. He was concerned, however, that the current plans may not involve Anderson’s family.

“The Velvet Lounge was run by the Fred Anderson family, and I’m not sure if they’re involved in this,” Fioretti said. “Until we anything that is going to happen there, I am very concerned with the who, what, when and how it’s going to happen.”

Nevertheless, having the club reopen would be in line with Fioretti’s vision of creating a flourishing new Motor Row entertainment district around the corner on Michigan Avenue south of Cermak.

“If they got it going right, it would be a help,” Fioretti said. “It would be a good addition.”

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