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J&R’s music history will be preserved in (another!) new City Winery venue


J&R Music spent 44 years at its site along the length of Park Row (1971 to 2914), amassing not just a global reputation as music retailers but also pieces of American music history. Now, as the company develops its properties there, it is adding a venue to celebrate that history — and has called on neighbor Michael Dorf to do it. J&R Music Lounge By City Winery will open sometime this spring in the basement of 15 Park Row, and will be billed as a live music lounge and supper club to seat about 200 — much smaller than its City Winery siblings, but with the same cool vibe.

It all started with a call out of the blue to Dorf from Rachelle Friedman, the R in J&R (her husband is the J). “She’s a legend,” said Dorf, who went to her office at 15 Park Row about a year ago to discuss her idea — sitting among souvenirs like a white baby grand signed by Lady Gaga. At that time he was a bit bogged down, having just learned that his lease for City Vineyard would soon be terminated to make way for Disney. “But she was so compelling and such a good saleswoman that I couldn’t not go along.” To envision the space that the two cooked up, think jazz club but with a broader definition of jazz — live music with dinner and some ticketed events, some not. “It’s hard to define, it may be more of an eatery with good music, but we are going to feel that out.” And since Dorf speaks in fully-formed sentences, and is clearly so jazzed about this venture, I’ll let him take it from here:

“It’s all really exciting. The building has such a deep history — it was once the tallest building in the city before the Woolworth Building was built — and we geo to be part of this historic space. It’s about preserving some of the great things about New York. J&R was not just a retail chain, it was New York, and it was downtown New York. It’s an honor to pay homage to a 40-year retailer that we always used, not just for music but for parts and even for toasters. And this is really a partnership — we are not paying rent. Jason Friedman, Rachelle’s son, is excited about it and is getting involved in construction so I don’t have to show up here every day. They are far from a mom-and-pop operation, but they are personally involved. It is making it a lot more fun and a lot easier on me as we build out Pier 57 at the same time.”

They hope to have the space open by April or May.

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