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Rebirth of the cool

Call it a comeback: Jake’s Bar & Grille is back in action
By CHRIS CONTI  |  October 9, 2008

KICKING IT OFF: Cory Branan headlines at Jake’s tonight [the 9th].

“We could sure use a plug after being closed all summer,” Jackie Nichols , the owner of Jake’s Bar & Grille, told me this week. “I think most folks assumed we had closed permanently.” But they didn’t, and the new and improved Jake’s Bar & Grille on Richmond Street reopens tonight (the 9th) and kicks off a Columbus Day welcome back weekend with three highly diverse shows, something this modest venue has always excelled at, thanks to Nichols and her son Jake. The emphasis on live music may also prove to be a wise choice, with new neighbors Rick’s Roadhouse and Stanley’s Burgers on the block. 

“We plan on continuing to host a wide range of artists, now more than ever,” Nichols said. “Jake and I have broad tastes in music, from hip-hop like the CunninLynguists to country-punk and classic rock.” The emphasis on live music this time around is abundantly clear, as Nichols reports that Jake’s will host shows Thursday through Sunday, plus a Wednesday singer/songwriter showcase beginning in November — glorious news for those of us still salty about the loss of the Met Café.

“We saw the need for a venue our size and I think we can do a good job with it,” she noted. Some 18-plus shows will be added, and most local shows will remain in the $5-$7 range, with national acts around $10 per head.

“National booking agencies tell us that the bands love playing here because the fans are so enthusiastic, and also because of our hospitality,” she said. “We’ve forged some solid relationships with bookers from LA to NYC.”

Nichols decided to “regroup with some minor repairs and painting,” but the most notable addition will be the subtraction of most of their extensive dinner menu. They will now offer “a limited menu that lends itself more to the venue, like burgers, pizza, and nachos.

“We originally opened as a restaurant, but had so many requests from local bands to play here that we eventually gave it a shot,” owner Nichols recalled.

Jake’s doors opened in July 1999. Jackie and Jake had previously been in the business for 15 years at spots like the Hot Club and Jake’s spiritual predecessor, Leo’s, an eclectic neighborhood watering hole for artists. Local bands such as Mahi Mahi, Von Doom, and Kilgore have graced Jake’s stage. And the club was way ahead of the hipster sect when they hosted national acts Lucero and Okkervil River.

The opening ceremonies kick off tonight with Mississippi-born indie folk-rock crooner Cory Branan and New London’s the Quiet Life. Friday has the return of Denver country vets Slim Cessna’s Auto Club, with locals the Wrong Reasons supporting, and Saturday kicks into hard rock overdrive with Bloodwitch (featuring ex-Kilgore vocalist Jay Berndt and drummer Bill Southerland), Boston’s Motherboar, and our own Kanerko kicking it off.

And speaking of variety, of all the bars I ever stumbled onto, Jake’s was the only place where I could drop a buck in the juke and hear EPMD’s Strictly Business alongside Dinosaur Jr’s You’re Living All Over Me. Sadly, Nichols reports that the jukeboxes are gone and they will be using an iPod between live sets, but assured the “same quality and variety of music.”

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