Monday, February 3, 2014

Friday, When I Returned to The Broadway Jazz Club

Not two hours after last week’s blog post went online, Broadway Jazz Club owner Neil Pollock phoned me. I’d never met him. A mutual friend had given me his number, and I intended to call him later in the day. I was surprised and impressed that he found my phone number and reached out so quickly.

Neil wanted to insure I was okay and hear more details on the attack in the club’s parking lot the previous weekend. The club, he said, would immediately add a security guard to the lot on Thursday, Friday and Saturday nights. And if a guest wants to be escorted back to their car, just ask.

Later in the day, building owner Greg Patterson also phoned. He noted that in nine years of owning property in that area, he had seen little crime and nothing like this.

My day job entails dealing with vendors. I learned long ago that a key to separating good businesses from bad ones is how they respond to a problem.

The Broadway Jazz Club responded impressively. I didn’t expect anybody to call me but I’m grateful that they did. The addition of the security guard goes a long way towards relieving perceived uncertainties over the neighborhood.

I believe them when they tell me crime has not been an issue at 36th and Broadway. Greg has owned property there far longer than I’ve paid attention to the area. But this club cannot escape comparisons to Jardine’s, and its  Broadway neighborhood bears a rougher edge than just-off-The-Plaza. Correct or not, that impression was going to have to be overcome.

I continue to compare Broadway Jazz Club's situation to R Bar. R Bar was a wonderful restaurant with live jazz in the West Bottoms. But the Golden Ox’s days as a Bottoms destination had passed, Kemper Arena sat as a neighboring hulk, and driving into the area felt too adventuresome for the type of customer who would spend well on dinner and drinks. R Bar was never able to overcome its neighborhood and is gone.

Seeing a security guard adds a bundle of confidence to crossing The Broadway Jazz Club’s parking lot.

So does a crowd.


I’d planned to return to the club the next Friday, to hear Megan Birdsall.

When I was mugged on Brush Creek Boulevard (just-off-The-Plaza isn’t really as safe as its image) maybe 30 years ago, I carried anger over the incident with me for a long time. But this time, writing last week’s blog post proved cathartic. This time, I’m not angry.

Emotionally, I could go.

Freezing drizzle fell during Friday’s rush hour. News alerts popped up on my phone warning about crashes everywhere. The Accuweather app’s forecast showed drawings of ice falling from the sky starting at 9 p.m. I didn’t need to get out in that. The Weather Channel app instead predicted snow at 11.

But I wanted to go. I wanted to go as much to prove to myself that I was right, that emotionally I could go, as to hear jazz.

No ice fell. By 10 p.m. the Accuweather app replaced the ice illustrations with pictures of snow at midnight. The Weather Channel app agreed. I headed to my car.

Traffic was light. Accuweather must have scared a bunch of people that evening, I thought.

But as I turned into The Broadway Jazz Club’s parking lot, I was surprised to find it nearly filled. I took the last spot.

I walked into the club. It was filled with more people than I'd seen there on any previous visit. Every seat at the bar was filled. I took a table beside the bar.

Megan sang, I Can’t Give You Anything But Love, Baby. And I looked out on a club full of happy people. Most were listening, some chatted, some ate, most drank. Not every table was filled. But when Neil phoned the previous Monday, he said crowds had been growing week by week. I was seeing that.

Every club develops its own personality. The Broadway Jazz Club is still young, but it’s growing up right. The feeling Friday night was one of being among jazz-loving friends. This is more Cheers Plus Jazz than Jardine’s. Never mind the neighborhood outside the windows. A security guard and escort if you ask will handle that. Inside, I’m Norm.

The Blue Room is Kansas City’s most honored jazz club at our most historic intersection, with some stellar performances – Deborah Brown, Bobby Watson and Horizon – you will not hear at any other KC club. Stepping into the Green Lady Lounge is like stepping back in time, into a classic jazz club (though on weekends you should claim a seat near the band if you want to hear it). At The Majestic, you’re in a speakeasy and you know it, while Take Five feels like hearing a jazz ensemble in your living room.

The Broadway Jazz Club is properly addressing concerns while growing into what’s starting to feel like Cheers Plus Jazz, and a nice dinner.

When I left, I walked to the space in the back of the lot where I’d parked. After my experience the week before, the club insisted on escorting me. I wiped some snow from the car (the Weather channel app had it right all along). I drove home.

There were no incidents.

I kind of like feeling like Norm.

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