Inside Look: Downtown Sheraton New Orleans Opens New Live Jazz Club | Keith Spera
What do you do when your hotel has too much meeting space? If it’s in New Orleans, you’re turning some of that extra space into a jazz club.
With 100,000 square feet of meeting space, the downtown Sheraton New Orleans hotel has traditionally hosted convention guests. But conventions disappeared during the coronavirus pandemic and won’t be returning anytime soon.
Since the Sheraton reopened in August, it mainly welcomes vacationers. This prompted CEO Jim Cook and his team to reconsider several underutilized spaces, including the Rodrigue Gallery. The ground floor gallery, decorated with the signature prints of the late George Rodrigue Blue Dog, was no longer needed for the overflow of meetings.
âWe started to think about space differently,â Cook said recently.
What a difference ? It’s now Jazz @ the Blue Dog, which hosts live music on Friday and Saturday nights.
Even as coronavirus restrictions continue to ease, most New Orleans venues are sticking to their relatively early showtime pandemic routine …
After a smooth opening in April with the Mike Clark Trio, Jazz @ the Blue Dog presented Latin music from Mark Morganelli & the Jazz Forum Allstars this past weekend. The Dukes of Dixieland perform this Friday and Saturday at 8 p.m.
John Shoup, manager of the last Dukes of Dixieland, reserves the groups for the hotel. Coverage costs will likely range from $ 10 to $ 20; Discounted valet parking at the hotel is available with paid entry.
With the opening of Jazz @ the Blue Dog, the Sheraton joins several other downtown hotels that are once again hosting live music as coronavirus restrictions relax.
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The Saint Hotel on Canal Street, best known before the pandemic for the live music of its Bordeaux-inspired Burgundy Bar, has new owners who comeâ¦
And the new owners of The Saint on Canal Street recently announced plans to bring live music back to the hotel’s Burgundy Bar.
The Sheraton already has a well-established connection to the music of New Orleans: it is a headquarters hotel for the New Orleans Jazz & Heritage Festival, and also the long-time sponsor of the Jazz Fest’s Fais Do-Do Stage.
The hotel operates a private hospitality area adjacent to the Do-Do-Do stage, hosting meeting and convention planners from across the country who are considering hosting events in New Orleans and potentially hiring staff. bearers of local culture to participate in these events.
Bringing out town planners to Jazz Fest “helps them see different parts of the city in one place:” Look, a second line is coming. Let me show you what it looks like, âCook said. âIt’s a great way to sell the city. We have absolute pleasure and so do our customers.
Since arriving in New Orleans eight years ago, Cook has enjoyed learning about the city’s music and culture, âsomething you rarely experience elsewhere. (In New Orleans) music is everywhere you turn.
He was particularly struck by âMayo’s Sinkhole,â a celebration of a giant Canal Street sinkhole on May 5, 2016. âThis sense of celebrating life was something I fell in love with.â
Some of the most remarkable time capsules discovered for WWOZ’s “Jazz Festing in Place” date from the very first New Orleans Jazz & Heritageâ¦
According to Cook, New Orleans needs more concert halls, especially when the existing ones are still operating with limited capacity due to COVID-19.
âWe looked at sites like the Howlin ‘Wolf and the Spotted Cat as they tried to reopen,â he said. “With the restrictions, there is not enough capacity for the needs that exist.”
Jazz @ the Blue Dog is allowed for 100 seats but starts with 80, roughly the same as the still closed Snug Harbor Jazz Bistro on Frenchmen Street. There is enough room to expand to 130 seats.
âWith social distancing, we feel like we’ve created a comfortable space,â Cook said.
As a meeting space, the Rodrigue Gallery was essentially a blank canvas. On any given day, it can be configured as a classroom in the morning and a reception hall at night.
The fact that the gallery had its own bathrooms and a 13-foot ceiling made it suitable for conversion to a nightclub, Cook said. To equip the club, the hotel rearranged the staging, tables and chairs it already had on hand.
âWe were running around the hotel, finding all the plush chairs we could,â Cook said.
The stage was installed against the floor-to-ceiling corner windows that offer a ground-floor view of the intersection of Canal and Camp streets.
When a group performs, passers-by can see the action from outside. Thus, Jazz @ the Blue Dog is its own advertisement.
âThe music is in other downtown hotels, but you wouldn’t know it when you walked around,â Cook said. âThat’s why we thought this turn was so great. It’s wrapped in windows so people can see it all. “