Harlem’s Lenox Lounge Jazzed for Its New Home

Lenox Lounge owner Alvin Reed stands in front of the venue’s new home at 333 Lenox Ave. (Photo by Jasmin K. Williams via Amsterdam News)

Historic Harlem jazz venue Lenox Lounge has found a new location after a rent hike closed its home of 70 years at 288 Lenox Ave. on Dec. 31. It will soon reopen its doors once more.

Its new address sits just a few blocks up at 333 Lenox Ave., reported Amsterdam News‘ Jasmin K. Williams, who writes that the new place puts Lenox Lounge “smack-dab in the heart of Harlem’s new night scene, just across the street from Sylvia’s Restaurant and a stone’s throw away from hot newcomers Chez Lucienne, the Cove, Corner Social and Marcus Samuelson’s Red Rooster.”

Lenox Lounge owner Alvin Reed, who has overseen the place since 1988, spoke to Amsterdam News about the jazz club’s revived future.

“We’re going to see if we can recreate the Lenox Lounge. We are continuing it as a jazz venue and adding R&B. We’re going to recreate the Zebra Room. I have the trademark for that. We left the old place in good standing, but the signage is trademarked and will be at the new location. There will be two floors with an option for the third floor. We’re keeping the same musicians and adding new ones, too,” Reed told the AmNews.

“I’m excited because all my customers were very excited. When I announced it on New Year’s Eve, we just signed the contract at 8 p.m. They talked me into having a party. I didn’t have beer and just a little liquor. I made the announcement that this was our last night at this location. It took them down a little. Then I said, ‘But we’re moving up the street.’ Everyone was so happy.

“My customers encouraged me to not just walk away and disappear. I got calls from California and Florida. They gave me the ambition to fight. The singers really helped me out, too. They went to the Community Board saying, ‘We need a place to sing.’ Along with my attorney, we did a lot of planning and walking the streets and looking at locations. It still seems like a dream,” he said.

Reed, 73, arrived in Harlem in 1945 from Richmond, Va., with his parents and five siblings, who all stayed with a cousin on 134th Street. The Amsterdam News became a part of his life from childhood.

Reed began his career as an entrepreneur as a young boy selling the Amsterdam News, getting them from a newsstand on 135th Street. He made three cents on each copy he sold. He went on to run a limousine service and promote doo-wop shows. “I got educated at the University of Harlem,” he told the AmNews.

“When I originally purchased the Lenox Lounge in March 1988, I found out it was available in the Amsterdam News. I was always watching and listening to older people, I made so many mistakes but I would stay with them, talking and learning from them. Running a business is hard. You have to really get into it. I did it the hard way, the way that my generation had to do it.

The former, now-shuttered Lenox Lounge at 288 Lenox Avenue. (Photo by Jasmin K. Williams via Amsterdam News)

Reed, who calls Lenox Lounge a “built-in Harlem brand,” was not letting the venue go down without some Harlem opposition: “I felt how Harlem was changing and the new people coming in were knocking some of our businesses out. I wanted to fight back with my Harlem energy. I wasn’t going to just walk away and give up. I wanted to show some Harlem spunk and let people know that we were not going to roll over.”

Lenox Lounge’s is scheduled to open in the summer. The venue hosted legends such as Miles Davis, John Coltrane and Billie Holiday, with patrons that included Malcolm X, James Baldwin and Langston Hughes.

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