The Ottawa Tavern’s tenure as a jazz club is ending … suddenly.
Just six months after making the much-celebrated conversion of the downtown watering hole into a place where live jazz could be found several nights a week, The Ottawa Tavern is ending its run.
Tonight (Saturday) will be the last night that jazz will be featured at the tavern, according to musician Charlie Hoats, who’s been involved with booking bands at the club, including a number of national acts.
Greg Gilmore of the Gilmore Collection which had been leasing the building for the restaurant and bar informed me Friday that “after 10 years at Ottawa Tavern we have decided to not renew our lease.”
Instead, he said, the company is “going to focus on the properties that we own. Our last night at Ottawa Tavern will be Saturday. We will be working with Charlie to either cancel or transfer acts and we will work to continue to have jazz across the collection.”
What will happen with the restaurant/tavern location at 151 Ottawa Ave. NW wasn’t immediately clear, but tonight’s 8 o’clock jazz show by Colorado saxophonist Joshua Quinlan, a Grand Rapids native (with Hoats on bass, Randy Marsh on drums, Steve Talaga on keyboards and Rob Smith on trumpet) will be the last.
Gilmore said there are “interested parties that want to lease the space” where the Ottawa Tavern is located.
The move certainly will come as a huge disappointment to jazz musicians and fans who felt that jazz had found a renaissance of sorts in Grand Rapids over the past year, starting last summer with Sunday night jam sessions hosted by drummer Marsh at HopCat. That Hopcat Jazz Jam series celebrates its first anniversary at 7 p.m. Sunday with a performance by Quinlan, Marsh, Hoats and keyboardist Paul Lesinski. (Get details here.)
But “as far as the Ottawa Tavern is concerned, if you want to see jazz, you better go (Saturday) night, because it’s all over after that. Greg has solid business reasons for his decision, but it’s certainly a bummer,” Hoats told me. “Where jazz will go next remains to be seen, I guess.”
A veteran journalist, John Sinkevics spent more than 13 years covering music and entertainment for The Grand Rapids Press. Now editor and publisher of the LocalSpins.com website, he comments on West Michigan's music scene and profiles local and regional artists. He hosts a "Local Spins Live" radio segment on News Talk 1340 AM in Grand Rapids at 11 a.m. Wednesdays spotlighting many of those musicians, with a preview at 9:30 a.m. Wednesdays on WLAV-FM (96.9). He also now hosts the hour-long "Local Spins on WYCE" at 11 a.m. Fridays on WYCE-FM (88.1)
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