Due to declining attendance, the owner of the former Harvey’s Lounge closed down his business about a month ago and is now seeking a buyer for the Cedarhurst jazz club.
“At one point, we would have at least 100 people in there on any given night, but it’s hard in this neighborhood if you’re not kosher,” Harvey Sobler said of the lounge, located at 477 Chestnut St. “It’s like trying to sell snow blowers in Miami.”
Many locals agree, including Mikel Katoanov, owner of Mikel’s Dry Cleaners, which is down the block from the lounge. (Another business on the street, La Viola, recently closed down as well.)
“The problem is that most of the people that live in this neighborhood are Jewish, and they would want food or a lounge that is kosher," he said, "so they would not go to a place like that.”
Other local merchants and residents also said that a jazz club in that neighborhood wasn’t a good fit, and they were under the impression that it was some kind of coffee shop or a pub, unaware that its specialty was hosting live musical acts and open mic nights.
“People around here don’t even know what jazz is,” said another store owner on Chestnut Street, who preferred not to give his name. “Someone who tries to open a jazz club in the Five Towns, especially in Cedarhurst, is losing their mind. It’s never going to work.”
Sobler is hoping to get $170,000 for the business and possibly a takeover of his lease. He said the place is equipped with a $25,000 sound system, six televisions, new air conditioning, accordion windows out front, a spacious dining room, separate barroom and a full basement with a walk-in box. There’s also quite a bit of parking, with head-in spots in front of the store and ample parking alongside the railroad tracks.
“I put a lot of money into the place,” he said. “It’s a very modern built-out place. Nothing is more than four years old. It’s really a no-brainer for someone who’s looking to open a restaurant, because they would have to put nothing into the place.”
Previously, the business was called the Chestnut Street Grill, which Sobler also owned. Four years ago, he decided to make a change, turning the place into a music venue/bar/restaurant and renaming it Harvey’s Lounge.
In the past year, Sobler took in the owner of Cedarhurst Café as a managing partner to help rejuvenate the establishment, even switching the business to that name. But the situation didn’t work out.
“Harvey is a really nice guy, with a lot of friends and a big following,” said Rino DeGennaro, owner of La Terrazza, on the same block. “But he’s a very busy man, and maybe he didn’t have enough time for the place. And bringing in the owner from the Cedarhurst Café did not help. But it was a nice place. Me and my friends would go there after dinner sometimes. The bands were very good.”
But there’s at least one person who is pleased with the closure. One of the tenants of an apartment building next door said she won’t miss the drunk customers who would often congregate on the street after leaving the lounge.
Sobler is now in the process of trying to find a buyer on his own, rather than use a realtor. However, if the right person came along, he would consider taking in a partner and again relaunch the business. He said that his landlord is on board, whatever he decides.
“It would have to be the right situation and someone with the right expertise,” he said. “And it would have to be an equity working partner.”
Although the lounge is technically closed, Sobler plans to occasionally present special music events to help bring in a little revenue until the place is sold. He expects to get the word out through email, Facebook and newspaper ads.
“Harvey has always been a music lover, so he wanted to open a place with live music,” said Heather Schirmar, an employee of Harvey’s Place, a Cedarhurst hair salon that Sobel has owned for 44 years. “They had great live professional musicians. There was nothing else like it in the Five Towns.”