By Samson Weinberg
Ever since Water Street Music Hall lost its entertainment license back in 2016, Rochester hasn’t been the same. The once-top venue in the music scene was the victim of violence and financial insecurity, causing the city of Rochester to question its safety.
In one infamous incident, a band arrived at the music hall, only to be met with a closed venue. In another notorious case, songwriter Anna Nalick had to wear mittens during a January show when the heat didn’t work. While it’s estimated that buildings eat up to 40% of the nation’s energy, Rochesterians weren’t sympathetic to the venue: many people walked out as a result.
In March 2016, it wasn’t surprising when the city refused to renew the club’s entertainment license. About 33% of small business owners report that a lack of funding is a top business challenge.
The city cited eight separate instances that hindered the venue’s safety and public welfare. Among these incidents included gun violence, traffic violations, and on-site brawls among patrons. Under Title 18, aggravated assault and battery is a Federal crime.
The music hall did not appeal its sentencing and closed, thereby allowing Syracuse-based venue Funk ‘n Waffles to take over in 2917. Here the new business witnessed calmer streets and more relaxed shows, but Rochesterians failed to adopt the new business. As such, Funk ‘n Waffles was unable to book national acts and headliners, causing further financial difficulties for the venue. After all, you will have to pay quarterly estimated taxes if your business owes income taxes of more than $1,000, regardless of business type. In only a year and a half, they closed their doors.
Owner Peter Sewell didn’t waste any time reclaiming the space.
After working on reinventing Water Street Music Hall for almost a year, Sewell announced the venue’s reopening this October. Dubbed “Water Street 2020,” he wants patrons to recognize the tried and true atmosphere of Water Street that Rochesterians grew up with. But he was sure to add a few new fixtures to entice new customers.
The newest remodel includes a new sound system, moving lights, and updated bathrooms. These will offer a huge return on investment for the venue, especially if they qualify as start-up expenditures for the new space. The biggest change, however, is the club’s new restaurant: Jack’s on Water Street.
Jack’s on Water Street will feature some of Sewell’s favorite cuisines from his time in Las Vegas. The venue has also ditched its old stage for the sake of making more room for restaurant seating. This was a smart move on Sewell’s part: up to 69% of home remodels involve renovating the kitchen. Even though he has wanted Water Street Music Hall to feature a restaurant for a long time, this will be a key aspect of the venue’s revitalization project.
Sewell named the restaurant after his rescue pitbull Jack, one of the 75 million pet dogs loved throughout the United States. But don’t think the food is made for Fido: Sewell’s head chef once worked for Wolfgang Puck and Bellagio’s Steakhouse.
In its heyday, the club witnessed top acts and more sold-out shows than the owner could count.
“We’ve had 300 sell-outs over the years and we were named the number one club in Rochester for multiple years,” reminisces Sewell in an interview with WHEC.
Though Jack’s on Water Street has already opened, the music venue side, Water Street 2020, is slated to open this weekend.
“I want people to know, ‘It’s the Water Street I grew up with,'” explains Sewell. “I’ve had so many people tell me, ‘I was there for my first-ever concert, it was a high school battle of the bands.’ I’ve had so many people say to me, ‘My first concert was, fill in the blank, at Water Street.'”
Hopefully, this venue will serve as someone’s first concert for more years to come.
Tags: Rochester music, Rochester music history, Rochester restaurants, Water Street Music Hall
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