Velvet Rose Supper Club

By Paul Moffett

The first person I ran into on my way to see Willie Bright, owner of the Velvet Rose Supper Club, was "Prince" Phillip Mitchell. Mitchell, it seems, will be booking the music in the club.

Already, it looked promising. I had not been certain just what I might find at a building at 519 East Jefferson Street, particularly one that had last housed a bingo hall. What I found was a pleasant and friendly surprise.

Inside, Bright has been renovating, renewing and repainting.

Eleven thousand square feet of renovating, and renewing, to be exact.

"Better make that ten," Willie demurs. "We have a kitchen in the back and storage and like that." Even so, ten thousand square feet of floor space devoted to entertainment, drinking and eating is serious business.

Freshly painted in soft pastels, the room is broken up into sections, with a stage in the corner on the streetside wall and a sizable dance floor in front. Neatly arranged cocktail tables, complete with tablecloths, fill the room. A long bar on one wall suggests that getting your drinks of choice will be easy. In the rear of the building is the restaurant, with a large seating area dedicated to dining.

Open only since Aug. 18, the Velvet Rose was doing a steady and growing business in walk-in lunch trade. Most of the customers hailed Bright or Mitchell or both or the other people in the building.

"We got a great lunch special," Bright brags. His customer apparently agreed as sack after sack went out the door.

"We can hold four hundred and ninety-nine people, according to the city," he notes, "till we get one more rear door built. I don't know how many they'll say we can have then."

Bright, owner of Willie's 537 Club at Oak and Preston, sometime home to the meetings of the Kyana Blues Society, has learned a lot from running the 537 Club, particularly about the ups and downs of the club business.

"You might be doing great this month and next month, boom, no business," he noted. He learned to build up a solid inventory for those slow times, as well as to plan for the long term.

The club has a full bar and menu. David Gibson is the primary consulting chef for the club with the day-to-day kitchen duties handled by a "couple of good cooks."

The music will be primarily blues, jazz, and top 40, with a Sunday evening jam session set to roll. According to Mitchell, the jam session will have a rhythm section available to back whoever comes in.

"We want all kinds of performers, not just jazz and blues," he asserts. "Singers, players, you name it."

Bright is looking to build a clientele with an older crowd, noting that there are not many places where people can come and have a sit-down dinner, drinks and live entertainment in an elegant and upscale setting.

"Everybody's welcome, of course, but we have a dress code," he said, which he intends to enforce.

The Velvet Rose Supper Club's hours of operation are 11 a.m. to 4 a.m., seven days a week. Happy hour on Thursday is 5-9; on Friday, 5-7. Music will be played from 10 p.m. - late. There is a large, secure and lighted parking lot immediately adjacent to the building.