New owner totally refurbishes famous London venue

LONDON — World famous jazz club Ronnie Scott’s has closed its doors for the first time in its history as its new owner totally refurbishes the central London venue.

Sally Greene, who bought the club last year, is drawing on her experience of renovating other London entertainment spots to bring Ronnie Scott’s into the 21st century, but she tells Variety she is not prepared to risk changing the venue to the detriment of its ambience.

“The club closed last Saturday and we’re hoping it will reopen in June,” says Greene, who has been praised for the refurbishment projects she has overseen for her other venues, which include the Old Vic, Criterion and Richmond theaters.

“We’ve done a little bit of research on the Ronnie Scott’s building in Frith Street, but we don’t know what we’re going to find when we strip the place back, so we’re allowing ourselves a few months for the refurbishment work.”

Ronnie Scott’s first opened its doors in October 1959 in Soho’s Gerrard Street. It moved to its present location in 1965 and apart from closing annually on Christmas and New Year’s days, the 300-capacity club is open for business seven nights a week.

Greene would not disclose the cost of the club’s refurbishment, but artistic director Leo Green reveals, “It’s an extensive project — we’re replacing the toilets, kitchens, remodeling the front of house area, we’re re-wiring the building, putting in a new sound system and generally redecorating the whole place. We’re also turning upstairs into a lounge bar, which will increase the capacity a little and allow people to meet and socialize away from the performance area.”

Owner Greene adds, “The most important thing is the music, so the club itself will be very similar to what it looks like at the moment, only more comfortable for the musicians and the jazz fans.”

Among the legendary acts that have performed at Ronnie Scott’s down the years are Count Basie, George Benson, Eric Clapton, Jimi Hendrix, Harry James, Stan Getz, Ella Fitzgerald, Herbie Hancock, Sonny Rollins, Oscar Peterson, Ben Webster, Buddy Rich, Nina Simone and Lionel Hampton, to name but a few.

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