Brian Gresham fondly recalls the days when mega clubs like Coconuts, Mirage and Excalibur ruled the nightlife landscape. But times—and clubs—have changed.
"These days, people want more intimate clubs, where you don't feel like you're lost in the crowd," he explains.
One thing that hasn't changed, he notes, is folks' desire to be entertained by live music. Banking on that premise, Gresham and partner Claude Carson opened Take 5 Rhythm and Jazz in February. The roomy and well-appointed space in the Warehouse District filled the vacancy left by the short-lived Prime Rib Steakhouse.
Like the recently opened Vosh in Lakewood, Take 5 caters to a "more mature" audience that wants to hear live jazz, Motown, oldies, swing and pop. And they want to do it in style, comfort and without having to brave loud and unruly crowds.
"We didn't reinvent the wheel," notes Gresham. "Places like Nighttown and Brothers Lounge have been doing it for years. But those clubs tend to be on the fringes. There is nothing else like this downtown."
Gresham says his club enjoys a best-of-both-worlds situation thanks to its location. Take 5 is on the edge of the Warehouse District, allowing folks to enjoy an after-dinner show downtown without having to brave the West 6th Street scene.
Take 5 dishes up live music Thursday through Sunday nights, most of it free of charge. Gresham says he tries to book as many local performers as possible because "if we don't support these local acts, we'll lose them." But Take 5 also hosts larger regional and national acts.
While enjoying the show, guests can order off a pricey small-plates menu, where items are named after famous musicians. Hungry for some Stevie Wonder's fried green tomatoes? Got a craving for Sade's deep-fried calamari? Maybe round out your meal with Miles Davis' lobster tempura? It's all here.
Things are going well for the club so far, says Gresham, and he's hoping that it will continue to pick up when the new med mart and convention center start bringing in large groups as promised. The casino, he notes, doesn't seem to be helping business too much.
Across town in Lakewood, Mickey Krivosh was having the same thoughts as Gresham. For almost 40 years, Krivosh has owned and operated the popular neighborhood watering hole Around the Corner. But his corner of the world was missing something, he believed.
"You don't see too much live entertainment around here anymore," says Krivosh. "I think people need to be entertained."
So he and his kids took an old Bonne Bell warehouse attached to his other property, Georgetown restaurant, and converted it into a posh live-music venue. With their own bare hands, they deconstructed the Lakewood Country Club and used the salvaged materials to build out Vosh. From the backbar and fireplace to the moldings and lighting—even the beefy front doors—it all comes from the defunct club. Large movie theatre marquee letters spell out the word "Detroit."
It's an attractive space that accommodates 150 people now, though it feels a lot smaller. A lengthy dark-wood bar snakes down one side of the room, and the main stage is tucked into the corner. A floor-to-ceiling garage door opens out onto the secluded courtyard that for years has attracted diners to Georgetown (and, before that, Three Birds).
Krivosh is aiming to prevent his guests from eating and running. "Now diners can have dinner at Georgetown, walk across the patio and right into Vosh to enjoy some live entertainment," he says.
On a recent weekend night, every seat in the house was filled—bar included. Apart from the excessively loud sound system—and the occasionally spotty service—the set up is more than a live-entertainment fan can expect these days. During set breaks, the house broadcast the Electric Slide, which lent the proceedings a cheesy wedding vibe, but did manage to free up some much-needed seats.
Creative cocktails like A Different Corner—made with vodka, cucumber, ginger, mint and rosemary—further elevate this club above most. The grub is intentionally modest in ambition so as to not pull diners from its more upmarket neighbor, Georgetown.
A packed house and a diverse crowd prove that Krivosh might indeed be onto something.
"We're just trying to offer something different to the westside area," he says. "Three months in and things are definitely turning the corner."