City officials, business owners and a gaggle of press packed an upstairs room at Ham’s restaurant in downtown Greensboro yesterday to hear an announcement about what many already knew: a new venue connected to the House of Blues is coming.
The venue, which has yet to be named, will be exclusively booked by House of Blues Entertainment but will not be an actual House of Blues. The company books acts at 13 House of Blues locations and numerous other venues around the country, including two venues in the Carolinas — House of Blues in Myrtle Beach and the Fillmore in Charlotte.
The new venue will replace Allure nightclub, formerly the N Club, on South Elm Street. Both the building and the location are owned by Rocky Scarfone, who made a similar announcement a few years ago with the Carolina Theatre.
The difference this time, Scarfone said, is that it is an exclusive booking arrangement with House of Blues Entertainment rather than individual events. Though he helped bring close to 20 shows to Greensboro through House of Blues Entertainment in the past, beginning with Yes for a grand-opening show, Scarfone said he has long dreamed of moving beyond one-off events.
“It’s all finally come together,” he said in an interview. “Music’s always been a passion.”
Scarfone said he won’t come to the city for money and that the project is entirely privately funded. “Thank God,” he added.
The venue is scheduled to open in mid-November, and will include an Indigo Cone Denim Lounge in an adjacent space.
A slideshow presentation at the press conference listed acts that House of Blues Entertainment has brought to the Carolinas in the past, including BB King, Switchfoot, Matisyahu, Coheed & Cambria, Cyndi Lauper and Bone Thugs & Harmony.
Former mayor Robbie Perkins, who attended the event, lauded the news.
“This is the start of Greensboro growing up,” he said. “You’re trying to bring all of Greensboro to the center city and this will provide the quality of entertainment that will do that.”
Perkins was vague about his involvement in the project, saying that he works with Scarfone generally and does some leasing for him, adding that Scarfone has “guts” for getting this off the ground.
But is Perkins directly involved in the new venue?
“A little bit,” Perkins said. “As much as he lets me.”
City council members offered predictable reactions, including conservative Tony Wilkins: “This is a great example of how private enterprise can work without city intervention.”
Councilman Jamal Fox said he and others on council were curious about whether Greater Greensboro Entertainment Group would end up requesting a forgivable loan or other financial support from the city, and Councilwoman Sharon Hightower appeared to be thoroughly unimpressed.
“It’s alright. It’s okay,” she said. “It’s just another downtown venue. It’s a couple of blocks from Roy Carroll. Is he going to complain about noise again?”
Hightower said she doesn’t expect the jobs created to be the type that the city really needs, ones that would pay enough that people could buy home. Hightower said she is ultimately fine with the venue because it will help bring tax revenue to the city and positively impact neighboring businesses, but she wishes it was being opened in her district of south and southeast Greensboro.
“It’s kind of hard to advocate for your district when you don’t have open communication with people,” Hightower said. “It is what it is. Hopefully down the line somewhere they’ll see there are other areas of the city that would benefit.”
The venue includes a general admission area where seats could be added, holding 800 people maximum. Greensboro Coliseum Deputy Director Scott Johnson, who attended the event, said that is significantly smaller than the planned performing arts center’s smallest function, which would seat 1,500. That means it fills a void rather than being a competitor, he said.
“It’s a huge plus and a win for the city,” he said. “Bands start at small clubs which is what this is. We have to develop them as an industry.”
As those acts grow in popularity they can be booked at the performing arts center, at the White Oak Amphitheater or even at the Coliseum, he added.