By Jaimie Julia Winters
Area foodies, cocktail connoisseurs and jazz lovers will have a new place to listen to live music while dining by mid-July. The Montclair Social Club, located at the former Rascals Comedy Club space, has announced its official opening will be July 12.
The club will bring dining, craft cocktails, entertainment and nightlife under one roof, said owner Jason Miller.
The building, owned by Dick Grabowsky and vacant for a decade, has been transformed into a supper club with a 120-seat restaurant, 22-seat bar and a stage for live entertainment. Miller, a Short Hills attorney, leased the facility at 499-501 Bloomfield Ave. Miller said he hopes to attract both the Thursday night patron for a beer and burger and the Saturday night special occasion patrons looking for a fine dining experience — topped off with a little live jazz.
“We are a restaurant first, but will offer entertainment to complement the dining experience,” Miller said. “We want our customers to have a fun and memorable experience at the Montclair Social Club in an upscale, casual environment.”
Grabowsky said that his plans to lease the space had been on hold for years due to Rascals’ federal bankruptcy status. Those legal proceedings continued from 2007, when Rascals declared bankruptcy, to 2013.
Montclair Local first reported in July 2017 that Grabowsky was leasing the building and selling his consumption liquor license to Miller. At that time, the new establishment was expected to open by Jan. 1 of this year. Delays caused the opening to be pushed back first to the spring, and finally to mid-July.
Entertainment will range from jazz to theatrical music, while diners can order casual fare such as executive chef Michael Merida’s award-winning meatballs and big burgers or more exotic dishes such as the bronzino, sushi-grade tuna and organic, farm-raised chicken.
After meeting and dining on Chef Merida’s food, Miller asked him to come on board. Merida has created menus for The Fat Duck in England, El Bulli in Spain, Le Bernardin in New York City and Nihonryori RyuGin in Tokyo. He will bring his global-American style to the club’s menu, said Miller.
The club will undergo two renovations. The first phase is a 7,000-square-foot restaurant and cocktail bar with live entertainment. Lunch and brunch will also be served. The second phase will be an additional 7,000-square-feet of turn-key dining event space.
“It’s a multi-phased project. We will proceed with the upstairs at a future date. For financial reasons we are not able to do the entire project at one time,” Miller said.
Because the club is located in the Bloomfield Avenue Historic District, Miller needed approval by the Historic Preservation Commission for changes to the facade. He also sought variances for the signage and the marquee, and a shed to house the mechanicals which will be located behind the building.
The interior decor will reflect the historic art deco look that is part of Montclair’s downtown, said Miller. Patrons will enter through dramatic double doors into a parlor leading to a mirrored bar with plush fabric and steel stools. The restaurant will offer three dining areas: one with intimate booths, another with platform and counter-height seating and a third by the stage. The walls will be painted teal green with deeply-stained wooden panels. The space will be decorated with brass industrial-chic elements.
Miller is also creating an entrance to the restaurant in the rear of the property.