Two Decades Later, Dazzle Is Moving Downtown to the Baur's Building

Dazzle will be relocating to the Baur's building downtown.
Dazzle will be relocating to the Baur's building downtown. Brandon Marshall
Over the past nineteen years, Dazzle Restaurant and Lounge has brought in some of the world’s finest jazz musicians, from veterans like Jim Hall and Benny Golson to younger cats like the Bad Plus and Robert Glasper. But in the coming months, Dazzle will leave its longtime location at 940 Lincoln Street and move downtown to the Baur’s building, at 1512 Curtis Street, where the club will celebrate its grand reopening on Thursday, June 1.

Since Dazzle, voted by Downbeat magazine as one of the top 100 jazz clubs in the world, will be moving into much bigger digs (the Baur’s space is 18,000 square feet), owner Donald Rossa says he and his staff will be able to more than double the capacity of the current location, which is 85 people. The new location accommodates 200 people standing. They’ll have the ability to transform listening space in the new spot by moving tables and chairs around, depending on the act and if they anticipate dancing.

“We’re going to be doubling space and doubling efforts and moving into something that’s pretty tremendous,” Rossa says. “We’ll hit a new level of booking. I think we’re growing up. I’ve always taken a very cautious approach. But I also think it’s a part of the evolution. I also think it kind of takes some of our local guys to say, ‘Come on, a little bit more.’ I hope it spurs that kind of activity, because these guys don’t have 200-seat venues to go to, either, but still have the intimacy of playing this close.”

Dazzle will join forces with Baur’s building owner David Spira, who also heads up the Music Appreciation Society (MAS), which has been booking shows at Baur’s Listening Lounge since it opened two years ago. (The Listening Lounge will stay open through April.)

Rossa says that he and Dazzle artistic director Michal Schreier still plan to book a great deal of jazz, but it won’t be their only thing. They plan to bring headliner blues acts, as well, and Rossa hopes to eventually develop the basement into a blues club/artist space.

“The objective is to take 18,000 square feet and make it into this place for art and music and food,” Rossa says.

Rossa envisions the whole space as being something of an artistic mini-Union Station, where there will eventually be coffee, a bakery and hot-food kiosks, and different areas to hang out in the space.

“Just come and be causal,” Rossa says. “But what we also see is how it can become this artistic hang, because the space is big enough for the [students from the] campus to come across the street and just hang out and create that vibe.”

Rossa says he still wants Dazzle to be all-ages. “I think that’s very very critical for us and sets us apart,” he adds. “We want kids to come in. We want kids to play. We want kids to eat. We want kids to listen.”

He thinks of players like drummer Colin Stranahan or trumpeter Gabriel Mervine, who played at Dazzle early in their careers. “It’s just watching them grow up,” Rossa says. “If we can continuously inspire them....”

There are also plans for Dazzle to collaborate with the Music Appreciation Society and sponsor educational events through the nonprofit, and Rossa hopes to have classes for kids during the day once the basement is open.

While Dazzle has had a long history of being a listening room where talking and cell phones were discouraged, Rossa says there will be some of the same at the new space, depending on the act and the atmosphere. Jazz shows could be listening nights, while blues acts might be a bit rowdier. He’d like to have the “rules of the night” displayed as people walk in.

“You’re told these things as you walk in rather than sitting down and someone coming up and saying, ‘You can’t do this, can’t do that,’ Rossa says. “I think we want it to be a little more comfortable, but you know what you’re walking into rather than sitting down and then knowing what you have to do, because we do want to people to get up and dance at this one.“

As Dazzle segues into its next chapter, it also includes a few other changes. Matt Ruff, who was general manager at the venue for the past thirteen years, is becoming a co-owner. A new chef will bring changes to the menu from the 2,500-square-foot kitchen.

While Dazzle looks toward the future, Rossa says he plans to honor the 145-year-old Baur’s building’s storied history as a candy store.

“We want to keep this historical value of the Baur's building,” Rossa says. “It was where the ice cream soda was invented, so in our bar, we want to serve adult ice cream sodas, and we want to embrace the whole candy thing.

“We want it to be this place where when you dive back into that stuff. It was just such a glorious time, and if you can kind of.... It’s like walking into Union Station, like ‘Gosh, I feel like I’m back in time, but I’m forward in time, too.’ It’s just a little bit of both of those things. So, how can you best bring that environment there with some music? — and that sort of thing.”

Dazzle has shows scheduled at its current location until the third week in May, including Ravi Coltrane, Charlie Hunter, Christian McBride and Eliane Elias. There will be soft-opening parties at the new location during the last week in May.
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Jon Solomon writes about music and nightlife for Westword, where he's been the Clubs Editor since 2006.
Contact: Jon Solomon